|Paper||Canyon Country Zephyr|
|Rights||In Copyright (InC)|
|Rights Holder||Tonya Auden Stiles, Moab, Utah|
|Publisher||Digitized by J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah|
|Paper||Canyon Country Zephyr|
From the Glen Canyon Institute LOOKING BENEATH LAKE’ POWELL G.C_I takes a major step toward restoration with its interim Citizens Environmental Assessment By Andrea Jaussi They were men who would reverse the world, change the direction of rivers, stop the cycle of life until everything itself was as backward as lies. from “Solar Storms” by Linda Hogan The Definition of a Lake Lake Powell...America's Natural Playground..Jewel of the Colorado. Sounds inviting, doesn't it? But think again about the true meaning of those words: lake...natural...jewel. “Lake” Powell is not a lake. It is, and as long as it exists will remain, a reservoir. It is not a creation of nature nor is it a jewel. While it is a popular vacation - destination for approximately 2.5 million house boaters, sightseers, water-skiers and jet-skiers annually, most don't bother to find out what lies literally—and figuratively— beneath the surface of their recreation area Lights Out? A common objection to decommissioning Glen Canyon Dam is that without its hydropower Phoenix and Las Vegas, as well as other cities and towns, will go dark. No more air conditioning. But the Glen Canyon Dam hydroelectric plant only generates about 3% of the power in the four-state area (Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico). All customers who receive power from Glen Canyon Dam receive power from other sources as well. Shutting down operations at Glen Canyon Dam would not have a significant impact on electricity supply in the region. And even after the draw-down of the reservoir has begun, the hydroelectric plant could continue to operate and produce power for several years. This allows significant time to implement conservation and find alternate, non-polluting, nondestructive sources of power. : ; If Glen Canyon Dam is not decommissioned, sediments trapped behind it will (ABOVE) Glen Canyon Dam near Page, Arizona (L) Glen Canyon near Hite at the confluence of the Colorado & Dirty Devil Rivers before its flooding by the Powell Reservoir in 1963. This is not atypical. As Americans, we don't like to feel the consequences of our decisions and actions. We skim across the surface of things, ignoring our wake. But eventually clog the power plant's water intake structures. This could occur in as few as 100 years, rendering the dam useless for hydroelectric power generation unless if we turn around and look, we will see that the wake we leave in Powell reservoir is made up of human waste, motor fuel, trapped toxic sediments, hydrocarbon expensive modifications were made. pollution, unburned oil, precious lost water, and the frightening imperilment of the Grand Canyon's fragile ecosystem. This is pretty serious business for something called a playground. Studying the Problem Though the tragic loss of Glen Canyon has been felt by many who loved and knew the place, it wasn't until recent years that a movement began to.advocate the study and decommissioning of Glen Canyon Dam. We didn’t think we were allowed to question such a large federal structure. I remember about 4 or 5 years ago when I first Lost Water : The reservoir has lost a total of 30 million acre feet of water due to evaporation and bank seepage since its creation in 1963. This is equal to approximately 2.25 years worth of river flow. To give you an idea of how much water this is, Salt Lake City uses around 470,000 acre feet annually and puts a price tag of $248 million on it. But where would the many southwestern cities, towns, and agricultural operations draw water from if the reservoir was drained? heard the words, “drain Lake Powell,” my first thought was, “Can we really do that? a small, off-channel reservoir. And is the evidence strong enough to convince the public, as well as the government, that it should be done?” That is what the Glen Canyon Institute is investigating in its Citizens’ Environmental Assessment (CEA). And so far the data is compelling. Here is a small sample of the things we have found so far. these two users. Environmental Impacts At Glen Canyon Institute, we get weekly letters from people saying, “Yeah, it's too bad that Glen Canyon was destroyed and all that plant and animal life lost, but it's in the past. It's over and done with. You need to focus on the future and make the best of it now that Lake Powell is there.” But we are finding out that is far from over and done with. The endangerment of plant and animal life and the destruction of the Grand Canyon ecosystem continues. Agegraded silt is backing up into the beautiful canyons of Escalante including’Coyote, Willow and Davis gulches as well into the tributaries of the San Juan River and Cataract Canyon. The once warm and sediment filled waters that were the lifeblood of Grand Canyon have been replaced by cold, clear water that has destroyed habitat and deprived the ecosystem of valuable nutrients. Only 8 species of fish lived in the canyons of the Colorado River and 5 of the 8 are now endangered or have been extirpated. The humpback chub is the only one that exists as a naturally reproducing species. Because they serve no consumptive purpose, some have labeled them “trash fish”. In reality, the town of Page and the Navajo Generating Station, a coal-fired power plant, are the only direct consumptive users of the reservoir. Both of them could obtain water directly from the river or from We don't need to store 27 million acre feet of water for What Else? There are many other issues that are connected to Glen Canyon Dam and Powell reservoir. For example, the introduction of human waste into the reservoir increases bacteria levels and causes the occasional closure of popular swimming areas. Abandoned uranium mine tailings contaminate soils and water with radioactivity. These tailings contain high concentrations of heavy metals that are extracted as water percolates through the sediment layers, at which point they can become incorporated into fish. Increased salinity due to Powell reservoir costs water users over $25 million annually because of damage to household appliances and automobile cooling systems, as well as reducing crop yields. Spillway failure came close to occurring in the flood of 1983. This flood had maximum inflows to Powell reservoir of only 120,000 cubic feet per second. Geological and historical data prove that floods of much greater magnitude have occurred. In 1983, a slightly larger flood, or one of longer duration, could have been catastrophic. Twenty-five feet of sediment has already filled the canyon beneath Rainbow Bridge, a spiritual symbol to the Navajo and Hopi. When Powell reservoir was created, thousands of archaeological sites that included dwellings, pottery, baskets, and petroglyphs were inundated.