The recently-released scientific reviews of last fall's High Flow Test Experiment at Glen Canyon Dam and the concurrent release of a 10-year review of science work on the Colorado River contain an important message for millions of Western water users.

And the usual doomsayers, representing a very small number of people with a very big agenda, have once again launched into their tired diatribe about the dam without any acknowledgement of what the adaptive science program has accomplished or of the true views of Congress and the American people.

The irony is that the U.S. Geological Survey's "The State of the Colorado River Ecosystem in Grand Canyon," or SCORE report, summarized 10 years of knowledge that was openly available. There's nothing new there - we've all been working for 10 years on what was included in the report. Meanwhile, the positive news from the November 2004 High Flow Test Experiment has received little attention.

Previous Administrations of both political parties, as well as the U.S. Congress, have said that Glen Canyon Dam is here to stay because it is serving millions of people in the Southwestern United States. Congress, through the passage of the Grand Canyon Protection Act of 1992, clearly stated that the dam and reservoir have a place in the tapestry of the country.

The Act requires the Bureau of Reclamation to operate the dam "fully consistent with and subject to the Colorado River Compact...that govern[s] allocation, appropriation, development, and exportation of the waters of the Colorado River Basin." It also requires the operation of the dam in a manner that will "protect, mitigate adverse impacts to, and improve the values for which Grand Canyon National Park and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area were established..."

Congress and the American people expect Glen Canyon Dam to provide the benefits for which it was established and, at the same time, they expect us to work closely through the Adaptive Management Program and the federally chartered advisory committee that advises the Department of the Interior concerning scientific studies and review of operations and mitigating  activities. This critical facility is being operated with a sensitive ear towards the information being gleaned from the largest, and best funded, adaptive management program that has ever been undertaken in the United States.

That is exactly why the Congress, as well as both this Administration and the previous one, funded the Adaptive Management Program. That is why the power customers who purchase hydropower from the dam have supported funding the Adaptive Management Program to the tune of some $8 million per year.

That is why the governors of the seven Colorado River Basin States continue to participate. That is why the Indian Tribes of the Colorado River participate. Reasonable people and organizations are joining together to help us learn, adjust, and adapt the operation of the dam while it continues to serve over 25 million people with vital water and power supplies.

Let's pick the most visible experiment we have conducted as an example. One year ago, we released high flows that many termed "flood flows" to test our ability to rejuvenate beaches and backwaters downstream in the Grand Canyon. We all agree that the clear water released from the dam leads to erosion of  those critical features. But this is where the debate gets muddled.

The studies clearly determined that we can, in fact, rebuild beaches if the flows are timed to make use of sediment that comes from tributary inflows. The studies also seem to indicate that we need to look more closely at the frequency of those flows. So, should we ignore these recent positive findings because of the erosion issue -- or should we be encouraged that an experiment successfully informed us that we can use sediment inputs in a managed situation?

Over the past 10 years, we have tested; we have tried procedures; we have operated for periods of time with an eye towards discovering something unknown; we have pondered and tested suppositions.

Through it all, we have continued to operate a critically needed 1,320-megawatt power plant. Through it all, we delivered water to meet legal compact requirements annually during the worst drought in over 100 years of record keeping. Through it all, we continued to provide assured flows that thousands of customers who support the river running and fishing guide industry downstream of the dam depend upon. Through it all, Lake Powell has continued to provide millions of hours of rest and recreation to Americans of all ages.

Glen Canyon Dam serves as the Congress envisioned in 1956 when it passed the Colorado River Storage Project Act; moreover, Reclamation operates this facility in full compliance with Congress' direction in the 1992 Grand Canyon Protection Act.

As we begin a new phase of this adaptive management program, I want to say that I am proud of Glen Canyon Dam and the men and women of the Bureau of Reclamation who operate it. I am also proud of the dedicated work of the federal advisory committee, the Adaptive Management Working Group, proud of those who donate their time and efforts to learning more about the river system, and of the scientists who continually conduct the experiments that will, over time, enable us to continue to better operate Glen Canyon Dam.

My pledge is that the Bureau of Reclamation and I will continue to operate and maintain Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell as Congress has directed and as the American people want.
   ---
John W. Keys III is commissioner of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.