|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|
en Fe The Zephyr Interview with: DR. RICH INGEBRETSEN Director of the Glen Canyon Institute, Physician, Eagle Scout G Unbridled Optimist A few years ago, I heard that a Mormon doctor from Salt Lake City named Richard Ingebretsen had founded an organization called the Glen Canyon Institute and that its goal was to actually drain Lake Powell. “Yeah...right,” I said. Then I met Rich and I haven’t doubted him since. His enthusiasm and optimistic spirit will bring down Glen Canyon Dam, if nothing else does. Ingebretsen crams more living into a single day than anyone I have ever met. He is a physician, holds a Ph d. in physics, teaches classes at the University of Utah, and works the emergency room at the hospital in Brigham City. oe he works tirelessly to spread the word about Glen Canyon. On the day I traveled to Salt Lake to see him, Rich had just come off a 12 hour shift in the ER. We met at Salt Lake Roasting for the two hour interview, and again, a few hours later, at the physics lab where he removed two moles from this interviewer's back. (A few months ago, I told Rich that I didn’t go to doctors and he demanded that he become my personal physician.) That little procedure complete, Rich put on a Physics Show for me and a couple of his students, that included, among other things, balloons, liquid nitrogen and a bed of nails—he tried to get me to lie down on the nails, but I declined. At ten he dashed back to the hospital to fill in for a friend of his and ended up working two more back-to-back ten hour shifts. He left the hospital the following evening at eight and, incredibly, met us for dinner at a Lebanese restaurant in downtown Salt Lake. Even then, he could not resist the offer by a trio of lovely belly dancers to join them on the dance floor. If any of you are shocked by the upbeat nature of this interview, blame it on Ingebretsen: he’s contagious and he's genuine...JS Zephyr: Let's go back to the origins of your interest in the reservoir. You're the president of the Glen Canyon Institute. But your love for this place goes back to when you were a kid. Rich: When I was a Boy Scout, we took a trip down to the new reservoir. It had barely begun to fill. We put in at Wahweap and went up the canyon. You could see that the reservoir was coming up, but most of the side canyons were untouched and lined with trees. The scoutmaster kept pointing as high up as you could see to where the lake would fill. I remember hiking up Forbidding Canyon to Rainbow Bridge. It was a long and hot hike and around each bend we hoped we'd see the bridge. Finally it came into view and it was just awe-inspiring. We climbed up on the bridge--it was scary as it could be~and | then we came back down and splashed in the pools. Even then, I remember feeling sad that all this was going to be under water. Later, we crossed the river and spent some time in an alcove and againI was reminded that all this would be under water too. My scoutmaster said, “Enjoy all this now, because next year it will be gone." That was hard. I didn’t go back for years, when the reservoir was full and I remember being in the boat, staring down into the water, trying to remember what was there. In the early 1990s. while I was in med school I became interested in the river and started reading about it. I Good will win out. ‘Good’ is Life and _ preserving Life and | really think people will see this. Politics is a different thing-_ politics is money. It's evil and corrupt. But people have good hearts and know what's right. They'll see it. Even Jim Hansén will see it... Rich Ingebretsen Zephyr. Rich you’re a very enthusiastic and passionate environmentalist and a devout Mormon in one of the most conservative and, some might say, anti-environmentalist states in the country. In light of all that, how do you remain so darn optimistic? Rich: That’s actually an easy answer. I have a very good feeling about people in general. I believe they’ll do the right thing and the right thing is to protect and restore the environment. The LDS Church's views and doctrines, even though it doesn’t actually take a political stand, are towards the environment and to protect God’s creations. I was brought up in a home and a church Geionae where I believed that was correct. So I have a very positive feel that things will hap Zephyr: But in terms of the a of it all, for instance, the entire Utah congressional delegation opposes a good wilderness bill. Congressman Hansen thinks the idea of. draining Lake Powell is ridiculous. If you venture into southern Utah, wilderness is considered a four letter word. So how do you reconcile your activism with so many Mormons who consider such issues a threat to their lifestyle and culture? Rich: Gogd will win out. Good is life and preserving life I really think people will see ‘this. Politics is a different thing--politics is money. It’s evil and corrupt. But people have good hearts and they know what’s right. They’ll see it. Even Jim Hansen will see it. He has an obligation as a politician to protect money. When he said that the fish of the Colorado River are trash, he was just being stupid. Honestly I don’t look at those guys as real bright, so I don’t worry about them. They’re politicians. But people know what’s right. Honestly people are willing to make sacrifices if we give them good alternatives. It’ll work. Zephyr: Okay...look at the people in Garfield County. I don’t think, for the most part, it’s greed that drives their opposition to environmental issues as much as the perceived threat of an assault on their lifestyle. How do you turn them around? Rich: You’re asking a question about education. My experience is, people are afraid of . change, they’re afraid of the future, of the unknown. That’s the problem we have with Lake Powell. We have to teach people that these are correct and righteous principles and if we can do that, people will listen. Almost everyone I speak to about draining Lake Powell, afterwards supports it. There are always some people who will oppose things like this, but I guarantee you, if you can sit down with an opponent and have a rational conversation with them and show them that jobs will be preserved and still restore the river, most people aren’t afraid. In this state, in particular, draining Lake Powell is a huge change and I don’t blame people for being scared by it. I don’t even mind Jim Hansen opposing it. As a politician he should oppose it--as a politician, maintaining the status quo is what politicians do. What I do object to is when people won't listen to the other side. That is a problem but we don’t find it too often. heard about David Brower and the Sierra Club’s tradeoff on Glen Canyon (In 1956, the Sierra Club agreed to not oppose a dam in Glen Canyon, if the Bureau of Reclamation would drop plans to build.a dam on the Green River at Echo Park...JS). In 1995, I founded the Glen Canyon Institute (GCI) and created a list of eleven or twelve goals. One of them was to raise the issue of draining Lake Powell, but another was to meet Brower. I had never even seen a photo of Brower and then a friend of mine lent me a book that had_a likeness of Brower in it. Here was this dynamic looking man with the white flowing hair. In the book was also a photo of Brower holding a 16 mm camera and I was determined to track down that film and publish it for everyone to see. I called the Sierra Club and they had no idea where the film was. They gave me Brower’s number and this all led ultimately to a debate that GCI put together between Brower and Floyd Dominy, the former director of the Bureau of Reclamation. I got Floyd’s address from the Bureau and sent him a letter and he accepted. So they both came and I spent three days with them which was a wonderful experience. I can’t tell you how neat that was. As for the film, Brower didn’t know where it was. He sent me Phil Pennington’s slide show on tape of "The Place No One Knew,” and I have to say it was one of the few films I ever cried over. But I still wanted the Brower film. I got a call from John Elles, who was making a documentary of Marc Reisner’s Cadillac Desert and he actually tracked it down. We debuted it in October 1996 as “The Lost Films of David Brower;" it was then that I looked at the last goal on my list and decided it was time to go after it-to drain Lake Powell. Zephyr: Others have dreamed of draining Lake Powell, but for most of us, it’s always | been the ultimate lost cause. What makes you think this is a goal that can actually be achieved? Rich: I didn’t know if it could be achieved. I didn't t even know it was realistic. My girlfriend at the time pleaded with me not to use the words "drain Lake Powell" because she thought I would sound stupid. She said I'd lose all credibility. I decided that instead of announcing that we wanted to drain Lake Powell, that we'd get everybody together and ask if it was possible. Is there a reason? Can we do it? So I invited everyone in the world I could think of who was associated with Glen Canyon to a meeting in Salt Lake City. I invited environmentalists,I called the Bureau of Reclamation and asked them to send someone--they sent seven. At this gatheringI stood up front and said, "I want to go after Lake Powell; is there a good reason to?" And this one guy from the Bureau stood up and said, "Yes...let me tell you some problems with Lake Powell." He told us the one big problem was the 18 million acre feet of water that had been absorbed by the reservoir’s sandstone banks and the evaporative loss. In addition, efforts by BuRec to restore the beaches in the Grand Canyon through a controlled flood had evidently failed.