REACTION TO GRAND CANYON CONTROVERSY

By , Special to The Christian Science Monitor

Public response to the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process for the Glen Canyon Dam has been ``more than we anticipated,'' according to Mary Ann Facer of the Bureau of Reclamation in Salt Lake City. The bureau has received some 17,000 written comments, and more than 1,200 people have attended hearings across the country. ``It's certainly the largest EIS the bureau has ever done, and one of the most important,'' says Lilas Lindell, deputy public affairs officer for the bureau.

An overflow crowd was turned away at a public hearing on the EIS in Flagstaff, Ariz., in March, reportedly causing a near riot before an official promised that another hearing would be held.

Jim Ruch, executive vice president of the Grand Canyon Trust, and other conservationists observe the upswell in public involvement with satisfaction.

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``Things are happening,'' says Ruch. ``This has literally trod heavily on the toe of the body politic, and the body politic has leaped up and yelled `ouch!' The canyon is one of those extraordinary places.''

Rick Gold, assistant regional director of the Bureau of Reclamation, observes increased concern for the environment in the bureau.

``I see some initiatives taken by the Bureau of Reclamation that might provide for more balanced future development because of concern for the environment,'' he says.

Some observers put it more strongly.

``If operations of Glen Canyon Dam change, you can be sure it'll domino up and down the Colorado River system, and to other federal dams in the West,'' says a scientist working on the EIS. ``The attitude has been to develop and build the West. The dams have impacted the environment in the West for years and years. Now we're coming to the point where the Bureau of Reclamation is going to have to pay the piper.''

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