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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Summary
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

What about Lake Powell's recreation economy?

The most significant contribution to the economy made by Glen Canyon Dam is not water or power, but recreation. "Lake" Powell reservoir attracts 2.5 million people annually. The value of the houseboats alone that utilize the lake is estimated at some $190 million. However, as this was not the primary purpose for building the dam, it should not be the primary purpose for retention. Especially as this form of recreation is having devastating impacts on the local downstream environments. The petroleum products dispensed on "Lake" Powell reservoir alone are equivalent to an Exxon Valdez oil spill every ten years. Fecal matter and other waste deposited in the reservoir are serious public health concerns, forcing periodic beach closings. Of even greater concern is the impact that maintaining "Lake" Powell reservoir has on the world-renowned Grand Canyon and points beyond. Half the native fish population in the Grand Canyon has been destroyed and declines continue as a result of the cooler water and lack of sediment brought on by the dam. The riparian habitat in the Grand has also changed dramatically, with invasive species taking over the native ecosystem. Moreover, the entire ecosystem of the Colorado River Delta above the Sea of Cortez has been destroyed due to upstream dams - like Glen Canyon - which restrict flows.

This is why draining advocates are promoting a policy of economic transformation through restoration. In the case of Glen Canyon this has two components. One, where once a tourism economy that relied on the reservoir thrived, a new tourism economy that relies on a recovering Glen Canyon will rise up. The carrying capacity will unlikely be at the same level as what has been allowed on "Lake" Powell reservoir, but as pollution and sediment problems reveal, the current approach is itself unsustainable. Second, restoration advocates are promoting the establishment of an international restoration research facility to be established in the vicinity of the receding reservoir, of a magnitude comparable or larger to the national research facilities that were founded after World War II. Combined, such an economic transformation will ensure the economic vitality of the communities surrounding Glen Canyon in a sustainable, river-friendly manner.

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Last Update: July 20, 2004

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Living Rivers    PO Box 466     Moab, UT 84532     435.259.1063     info@livingrivers.org