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A preservation group is accusing federal dam operators of dragging their feet on a study of how releases of water from the Glen Canyon Dam affect the environment in the Grand Canyon.

A spokesman for the agency that runs the dam on the Colorado River denied there had been any delay of the study and accused the group, the Grand Canyon Trust, of grandstanding on the eve of a hearing on a canyon-protection bill.Interior Secretary Manuel Lujan, acting on years of complaints by environmentalists, last summer ordered that surges of water from the hydroelectric dam be leveled out. Preservation groups contend the surges strip Grand Canyon beaches, washing away archaeological sites, destroying fish spawning grounds and ruining the esthetic experience of canyon rafters.

A hearing is scheduled Thursday in the U.S. Senate on a bill by Arizona Republican John McCain that would put into law the dam rules imposed administratively by Lujan.

In a letter Monday to the Bureau of Reclamation, the Grand Canyon Trust said efforts to study the dam's environmental effects were lagging.

"I believe that a serious effort by committed leadership is needed to get the process on track and that the Bureau of Reclamation has the responsibility to show that leadership," Jim Ruch, the group's executive vice president, said in a letter to Roland Robinson, the bureau's Salt Lake regional director.

The dam is operated by a federal agency called the Western Area Power Administration.

WAPA spokesman Dave Sabo, in a telephone interview with The Phoenix Gazette, denied that the study had been delayed. He said the agency is sorting through various proposals on how the study should be conducted.

"I guess I don't understand where they're coming from," Sabo said. "There's a lot of theatrics involved in this . . . but clearly we're not trying to obstruct anything."