End of a dam saga

 

For the past two years, Jim Trees, the founder of the Grand Canyon Trust, has endured criticism over his plan to reconstruct an historic dam in a wilderness study area inside Zion National Park.

Now the green leader and organic apple farmer from southwest Utah has come up with an "environmentally friendly" solution that should satisfy wilderness lovers while keeping his orchards well-watered.

Last December, Trees announced that he will replace the 140-year-old earthen diversion on Shunes Creek with a specially designed rock and cement "side vein weir" just outside of the park boundary. The new diversion will allow virgin spinedace, a sensitive fish, to pass by whenever the creek is flowing. The historic system required a backhoe-built dike that dammed the entire creek during the irrigation season, cutting off access for the fish.

Only two weeks before the announcement, Greer Chesher, a member of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, criticized Trees and the Trust for failing to protect the threatened fish. Critics also claimed that the continued presence of the dam would eliminate the area from consideration as a wilderness area.

Trust president Geoff Barnard says that "what may have been perceived as a lack of concern on the Trust's part was actually my recognition that Jim Trees' intention was to move the diversion out of the park."

Copyright © 2001 HCN and Lin Alder