Living Rivers - Colorado Riverkeeper
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Drought Watch...It's not a matter of if, but when.
The End of Lake Powell Campaign
Analysis of Draining Lake Powell [PDF file]
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Why was Glen Canyon Dam Built?
What lies under "Lake Powell"?
Historic opposition to Glen Canyon Dam
What about hydroelectric loss?
What about the water supply?
What about the sediment?
Why are people concerned about dam safety?
What about the recreation economy?
Dam safety concerns
Decommissoning timetable/costs

Historic Opposition to Glen Canyon Dam

The proposal to dam Glen Canyon launched an opposition from its very beginning, in the early 1950's, but this opposition was overshadowed at first by the debate over Echo Park.

When first introduced in Congress, the Colorado River Storage Project legislation contained provisions to build a dam at Echo Park, in Dinosaur National Monument (as well as Glen Canyon, Flaming Gorge, and about ten other sites). It was the proposal to build a dam inside a unit of the National Park System, however, that sparked a national debate. For six years, the Sierra Club, the Wilderness Society, and a coalition of environmental groups from around the nation worked to defeat the Echo Park proposal, and they eventually won. The success of the battle to save Echo Park was galvanizing-- historians mark the Echo Park debate as the birth of the modern environmental movement in the United States.

Having achieved victory at Echo Park, however, it soon became clear to many that Glen Canyon, though not a part of the park system, was a place of undeniable beauty, worthy of protection in its own right. Among those who came to this realization was David Brower, then-Executive Director of the Sierra Club, who felt a sense of personal responsibility for the Glen's loss.

(It should be noted that there was never a "trade" of Echo Park for Glen Canyon. Glen Canyon was always in the CRSP legislation, and the objective of the Sierra Club and its coalition during the CRSP debate was the defeat of the Echo Park proviso, and not the legislation itself.)

Even in the 1950's, however, there was a movement to save the Glen. In 1954, a group of environmentalists in Utah, led by Ken Sleight, formed the Friends of Glen Canyon, whose objective was to revive a near-forgotten 1938 proposal for a national monument that would encompass Glen Canyon and much of the Escalante region. Amidst the clamor of the Echo Park debate, unfortunately, their voice went unheeded.

Yet Lake Powell continued to raise controversy. In 1970, Friends of the Earth and Ken Sleight sued the federal government for allowing the waters of the reservoir to enter nearby Rainbow Bridge National Monument, in violation of the CRSP. The court sided with the environmentalists, but Congress responded by removing the language within the CRSP that had prohibited the intrusion upon Rainbow Bridge.

In 1981, the environmentalist group Earth First! launched itself by unfurling a three-hundred foot plastic "crack" along the front of Glen Canyon Dam. In 1996, the movement to drain Lake Powell began to gather momentum when the national board of the Sierra Club, under David Bower's urging, adopted the position that Lake Powell should be drained. That summer saw congressional hearings on the proposal, and the Glen Canyon Institute in Flagstaff, Arizona, began work on a Citizen's Environmental Impact Statement to pave the legal way for the restoration of Glen Canyon.

In the winter of 1999, Glen Canyon Action Network was formed to build the citizen's movement to drain Lake Powell. The reservoir's days became numbered.....

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Last Update: July 20, 2004

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Living Rivers    PO Box 466     Moab, UT 84532     435.259.1063