Prologue with a Sobering Realism: The popularity of Glen Canyon with its new emblem, National Recreation Area (established October, 1972) promotes an image of a multi-use facility that opened its aquatic doors to the masses some fifty years ago. Whether it’s an improvement or a desecration of the environment depends on one’s perspective, and to some degree, one’s personal desires. Nevertheless, the revamping of Glen Canyon’s original habitat is what it is. This modern day semblance is here to stay for quite some time. So are arguments against the canyon’s retrofit.
There is also something else rather singular about this topic: one is either for the changeover or against it. However, the lopsided dichotomy (meaning, more people are in favor of the lake adaptation) is really not about advocates vs. malcontents. Rather, it’s more the case what is known about the real facts of the matter, where awareness backed by science and scientific studies, tends to label the malcontent types as suspicious, farfetched and overly dramatic compared to point of view held by advocates. If this simplistic way of looking at things is bothersome for some, behold the essence of almost any two-sided issue promoting extreme points of view, say, politics. Given the longstanding arguments about the lake and the dam that’s exactly the basis that feeds this contentious issue––politics centered on functionary mandates that were vogue before the 1970s but are now mostly outmoded.
What follows in this opening diary denotes a more or less ample background. It is especially written for those who know little or nothing about what happened ever since the Glen Canyon Dam became a reality in the 1960s. The confrontations and principles fought between a so-called archdruid and a tough-minded commissioner. Their fabled wrangling has been prime subject matter for Southwest studies on and off the campus and has since casts its story to the four winds. Whenever the topic of Lake Powell arises, it’s like someone just lit a match and a powder keg of explosive and opposing views detonates, then builds to a large mushroom, only the fallout is not radioactive, though nonetheless incendiary. The rest of this saga follows after the the fancy break indicator. . .
The Coming of the Canyon Slayers: Born from the compromise of bureaucracy, opportunism, even showmanship, Lake Powell was the newest flagship in the Bureau of Reclamation’s (hereafter, BOR) fleet of dams. In time, its heavily touted creation was fraught with environmental complications that later led to controversy. The federally sanctioned conversion from a dry canyon environs to an aquarium caste without glass windows had both advantages and disadvantages. It was therefore both a boon and a bane, again, depending on one’s viewpoint given what happened here.
The lurid title of this diary thus states the obvious. What isn’t obvious to many people is the former Glen Canyon (sans basin) in face of the contemporary––the retrofit of Lake Powell. Backed by Congressional approval in the late 1950s, the BOR’s decision to oversee the project came out of the proverbial blue. It also shocked an assembly of conservationist watchdog types who, for a second time that decade, were in for another big environmental fight to save yet another canyon from drowning. This time, however, the supposed secondary target was an outback frontier that was never sanctioned as a national park or monument. Without a protective status, and not so much as a State Park endorsement, Glen Canyon was plainly in harm’s way. The protestors still had one last hope, however, and that was to denounce and annul the bureau’s intent, because Glen Canyon’s domicile harbored a national monument, Rainbow Bridge.
Meet David Brower, then the Director of the Sierra Club.
And meet the man who was behind the seeming secretive scheming to flood Glen Canyon, Floyd Dominy, then the Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation.
After the bureau’s defeat on the Green River, at Echo Park (near Vernal, Utah), the rousted dam builders quietly and quickly moved downstream to another river and set up shop. Dominy and the brigade (including the Army Corps of Engineers) were immediately back in business once more. Hence, the aspect of sobering realism relative to Glen Canyon’s fate.
These two leading characters, the quizzical (and mythical) Floyd Dominy and the idealistic young David Brower, denote what many people have dubbed the longest running soap opera never televised. Their renowned dramatization over variance of what could be construed as a matter of aesthetics is not only legendary, but extreme given the perspective of their discord over the years. They literally went at it like wild cats and dogs, each arguing to the hilt why or why not the dam structure should be built. Of course, in the final analysis, and after a very litigious and bitter showdown in the courts, the bureau backed down its original planned height of the dam, and that way Rainbow Bridge would not be a sacrificial lamb made out of sandstone. Thus its perimeter also inundated. The rest of the canyon, however, would go under (in a manner of speech).
Dominy, who figured it was his solemn administrator’s duty to alter landscapes, and thereby serve the commercial will of humankind (by way of creating water storage basins), got the final approval to erect the stupendous structure some fourteen miles upstream from historic Lees Ferry (Arizona). Brower, who cherished open spaces and abhorred altering native frontiers, felt only disdain for dams. He later called what happened here a great environmental sin and somehow held himself personally responsible. Still, the commissioner saw it another way, his way: he called the end result his blue jewel of the Colorado. By this, he meant the shackled river behind the dam that created a leviathan lake stretching nearly 200 miles. Brower pouted, Dominy gloated, and there one would think that was the end of the contest of wills. Actually, it was just the beginning of a new round. As previously alluded to, the fight was not publicized as a local affair, meaning not just a slice of southeast Utah and northeast Arizona was at stake. In years to come, the fight and its popularity went viral in the United States, and eventually overseas. That environmental contest was also focused on the Grand Canyon, which was also targeted for damming (that shocking story follows later in the diaries). The Glen Canyon fight, however, was legendary in the sense it was one of the more notorious pro environmental campaigns waged against the federal government.
So it came to be how revisiting the collusion of Glen Canyon had turned into a literal lake-a-rama recreational area (mostly it’s that) and has indeed served another purpose. Collusion is also an apt way to put it. Dominy, if he were alive today, never would have thought targeting Glen Canyon for a mega basin storage project would one day become a major rallying point for conservationists. However, Brower must have sensed the fledgling support he and the Sierra Club got early on. Those conflict of wills (mainly with the commissioner) would also one day augment the rank and file of many others who also embraced taking a stance on protecting open spaces. Namely, to take whatever legal action was necessary and thwart those who would have their way with the environment. Thus Brower, et al., helped raise both the bar on environmental consciousness, as well as the ire of opponents he vigorously contested. Then again, there were others who relished what the BOR did and therefore rallied against the would be dam slavers.
(FYI: The notorious wrangling between the two titans in later years that ultimately galvanized millions of people defending an environmental front also connects with the most momentous climatic changes humankind is forced to recognize in contemporary times. Hence, a phenomenon once thought by some as either mythical or exaggerated. Namely, the collateral effects of global warming, and for this region a protracted drought since the late 1990s.)
Going back to the beginning, that is, B.D. (before the dam), Glen Canyon was a quiet, out of the way setting that many people considered the most pristine throughout the Four Corners region (a/k/a the Colorado Plateau Province). She was not a showy masterpiece of nature compared to, say, its most sublime downstream canyon neighbor, the Grand. The Glen, as aficionados tend to dub her (which is why I prefer ‘she’ rather than an ‘it’), is the second largest canyon of this wide, far province stretched out between the Rocky Mountains (in the east) and the Basin and Range Province (in the west). With straightforward geology and lofty canyon walls rising above the Colorado, the Glens’ overall contour is plain and somewhat understated. Thus, the quiet beauty aspect that speaks for this nonetheless eloquent domain.
Yet in the labyrinthian backcountry, starting at the floor of the Glen, myriad glens, grottoes and cavernous alcoves welcomed visitors in those halcyon days before the flooding. Hikers and river rats (an endearing term for rafters) considered the interior an Eden of finely fabricated sandstone deposited during the Mesozoic Era (roughly, 250 to 65 million years). These idyllic haunts were just about everywhere to find, where each small or large chamber was a treasure unto itself. Occasionally, thin veils of waterfalls graced the view. Because of numerous streams and collected pools of clear water, there was always a riot of riparian trees, plants and wildflowers. No wonder Major John Wesley Powell came up with the designate, Glen Canyon, on his first canyon country expedition in 1869 (though he originally called the setting Mound Canyon).
In this canyon domain, there also once lived an untold number of prehistoric and historic people. They, too, favored this haven for habitation, hunting and farming. Indeed, there were some 3,000 archeological ruins scattered throughout myriad drainages. These long, sinuous arms reached toward the usually muddy and indolent Colorado and provided year-round water for prehistoric and historic tenants. Likely along the river corridor is where most of the farms and gardens were cultivated. With a large roster of animals and avians, here was a habitat like no other. There was lots of water and shade here, also niche protective places for people to live, and if need be, hide from their enemies. Remember: these remarks are written in the past tense. Except for just a few intact archeological ruins, all the rest are gone (as in demolished, leaving only a distant memory that even time cannot erase.
And Brower had said it right all along when he quoted Elliot Porter’s homily Glen Canyon was the place no one knew. That’s because there weren’t too many roads in this part of the state. Neighboring Arizona in this sector was just as roadless. Hence, getting to Glen Canyon’s ramparts took time and incentive for people headed in this direction, most of whom came to hike or book passage on a slow rafting idol, meaning no rapids (whitewater) from start to finish. Visitors were also assured of three common S’s for the effort and time it took to get here: solemnity, solitude and silence. By the time I got here (in the spring of 1970), the network of roads was vastly improved, including driving across the Glen Canyon Bridge (U. S. 89). Still, the Colorado River’s reversal of its own fortune had about a good seven years head start on me and many bucolic sanctuary’s were already underwater. But I had most of that decade to explore remaining dry sectors. Those somewhat hurried jaunts also convinced me I had missed the greatest show on Earth. (Which is why I tried to squeeze as many backpacking treks in as I could.) The main incentive was my paroxysm for that damn lake water that crept backward, and like a thief, slowly covered up the river’s tracks (its former channel). By the end of the decade all the celebrated places were under hundreds of feet of water, many of which I never got to see.
Later in the 1990s I came back to Glen Canyon, this time as a houseboat captain and Elderhostel instructor (now called Road Scholar). In those days, I was employed by Yavapai College (Prescott, Arizona). It almost seemed a sacrilege piloting the big, homely blue boats up and down the lake on week-long cruises some seven or eight weeks a year. But I reminded myself I was paid to teach geology, natural and human history, while also sharing my stories and experiences with students about the real Glen Canyon brooding some 500 feet below the keel. When I worked for Northern Arizona University (Flagstaff) and the Grand Canyon Field Institute, I had even more opportunity to teach and share the plight of the Glen. Besides, Glen Canyon has become the Southwest’s penultimate source for discussing ruined ecosystems directly caused by dams standing in the way of free-running rivers.
The popular play on words––That was Zen and this is Tao––infers the changes to Glen Canyon’s native looks is what it is. Again, many people today think the picturesque lake and backdrop of upper canyon features is an improvement. So be it! The descriptive prose and subjective commentary thus far mentioned is also not just ardent hype and literary embellishment. It is the way things were in the Glen’s hideaways right up to the day a concave wall of gleaming cement sealed her fate by its massive blockade. From that very day the dam went into full operation (i.e., controlled water releases), the impeded Colorado was forced to cover up one of its greatest canyon masterpieces. It took over twenty years to immerse the best part of the Glen up to her imaginary waistline (3,700 feet above sea level marking the lake’s full pool level).
Early on Dominy’s bureau (for it seemed he fancied such control over the agency) confidently announced to the public there would be no more seasonal flooding. The farmers and ranchers applauded. Then Dominy’s rescript (which sounded like such) turned to the potential tourism market that lay ahead, how in time there would be a lake, where before there was only a muddy river and a canyon with a modest height rising sheer above the channel. That big body of still water would also become the Southwest’s latest and most popular recreation area for boating, for anglers, and for anyone who ventured into the sunbelt country. Here millions of people would flock to a sprawling desert oasis created by the second highest dam in the world (at the time, the second), and a near match for its downstream, and slightly older counterpart, the Hoover Dam.
In a relative short duration since its forming, Lake Powell seemed a permanent, though artificial, attraction in the desert. Consider its amazing facts relative to numbers: capacity 24,320,000 acre-feet; activity capacity 20,876,000 acre-feet; inactive capacity 4,000,000 acre-feet; catchment area 108,335 square miles; surface area 161,390 acres; normal elevation 3,700 feet (full pool); and maximum water depth 583 feet (though averaging 500 feet).
Remember: These figures are the Lake Powell of old (before the drought stricken years that substantially lowered all these figures). Ergo, much has changed since the 1990s. Also, an acre foot equals a football-sized stadium filled with one foot of water (i.e., 325,851 gallons).
Borrowing the cliche, “Build it and they will come,” I believe something like it was intended as a marketing promo for Lake Powell. Where before Glen Canyon was fortunate to be visited by maybe a few hundred people a year, once the basin was laid out in its entirety millions of annual visitors flocked to this region. And why not, considering Lake Powell’s nearly 2,000 miles of shoreline. It was also the second largest storage basin in the country (the first being Lake Mead, though its basin was somewhat larger by the greater volume of water it contained). So it would appear Dominy had turned Porter’s phrase into The place everyone would know. He was also eager to champion the parlance Open spaces for all Americans!
The other selling point the BOR proclaimed was twofold: a hydroelectric dam facility deep inside the wan-colored wall of cement that could generate electricity upon demand, while the primary purpose of this so-called cash register dam was basin storage. Thus, the lower canyon profile filled with standing water, and much like an elongate moat in the middle, the lake effect was a secondary utility for tourists. What most people didn’t realize, however, was how the basin functioned as a makeshift mousetrap for sediment intended to purge Lake Mead’s alarming buildup of silt aggradation. Behold the first signs of trouble for Lake Powell, starting sometime around the early 1990s––because by helping its basin neighbor at the other end of the Grand Canyon it could not help itself given the same problem!
(FYI: For those who are unfamiliar with this term, aggradation is defined as the accumulation of sediment where a river’s flow begins to slow down. This is also what rivers do: transport sediment. In this region, it’s all Late Triassic and Early Jurassic sedimentary rock country highlighting the so-called Glen Canyon Group (Wingate, Moenave, Kayenta and Navajo Sandstone). These rock formations are not only lovely to behold but are vulnerable to erosion and break down into finer clastic particles. For millions of years the Colorado River has chiseled its way through this territory, steadily downcutting into its easily malleable terrain, like a knife slicing into hard bread.
But the river's 1,450-mile run down from the Rockies to the Gulf of California (at least it used to get that far) has effectively been thwarted by a basin filled with its own water. Just below Cataract Canyon’s wild and wooly whitewater stretches the emasculated river drops its sediment load into Lake Powell’s deeper water. At the other end, and hundreds of feet below the dam’s crest, it is not the same river water as it was before entering the basin. Meanwhile, downstream from one of the lake’s many marinas (notably, Hite and Bullfrog) are two other sediment laden rivers, the San Juan, which funnels in from the east, and the Escalante, which funnels in from the west. Combined, this trinity of inflowing rivers also delivers a whopping load of sediment. When each of these bodies of water enters the mousetrap (Powell), that stuff, also called silt, naturally falls out and ends up on the bottom of the basin. Initially, the fallout builds great alluvial fans at the mouths of each river, and in time those so-called hummocks move along the bottom and head down-lake. (Next week’s diary will have more to say about this strangeness.)
The other thing about sediment is how it occasionally gets stirred up and a brownish tincture shows up on the surface of rivers. To some degree, its filtered residue sometimes shows up in lake water. However, by the time rivers and streams empty into basins there’s barely any trace of silt (which is why people simply don’t notice it). Yet clear-standing or running water carries sediment. Always. Wash a pair of socks or underwear in a stream or river, then when dry put the apparel on and go for a walk. Within five minutes or less the abrasive and unseen residue will reveal itself: blisters or chafing. Thus sediment is always there even in water that looks deceptively pure and clean.
Unequivocally, aggradation buildup is a major concern that either the Bureau of Reclamation did not consider before building this dam or felt too confident the immense basin it literally held up could handle the excessive inflow (of sediment). This latter assumption, however, was errant or aberrant thinking on the bureau’s part, and that’s a nicer way of putting it.
Consider a contemporary scenario of just how daunting aggradation really is, and what too much sediment buildup can do to any basin, large or small. The 200-foot high Matilija Dam (on California’s Ventura River) was built in 1947. Its structure was built for flood control and basin storage. (This utility should sound familiar given what was mentioned earlier.) At the time, this project was considered another success (by the BOR and the actual dam builders, likely the Army Corps of Engineers). However, some officials weighing in on the matter deemed it was flawed from the outset! It turns out the opinion was spot on. For decades, the Matilija Dam has been holding back silt almost as much as water. Like the Glen Canyon and its downstream canyon neighbor, this California dam has deprived downstream beaches of precious sediment––namely, sandy beaches. What has also happened in the process was the basin merely filled up with too much gunk. Thus too much constipation for the dam to function the way it was intended. Recently in time, the Matilija Dam was decommissioned without ceremony. It has proved a costly and wasteful operation since day one.
Next, consider the 563-foot high measurement of the Glen Canyon Dam. Since Lake Powell has formed its basin has been filling with an estimated equivalent of some 30,000 dump truck loads of sediment every day. The estimated 100 million tons of annual aggradation is probably a too conservative figure considering the heavy sediment loads all three rivers dump into the lake. Still, imagine watching this many fully loaded dump trucks passing by your front door every day, all headed to a lake, then dumping all that stuff. Consider this same scene that likely began sometime around the early 1980s!
What is happening to Lake Powell is more or less what the opposition has been naming this body of water since the 1990s: Lake Foul. Dominy’s PR campaign and boast about his designated blue jewel effect is simply gorging itself with an unhealthy appetite of aggradation tantamount to basin constipation. Indeed, the usually azure-colored lake stretched out inside the Glen’s interior is in stress because of the silt, at least to the point the basin is downgrading its own utility, its own lifespan.
And so far there is no timely and economical way to remove this gooey, grayish gunk; at least no one yet has come up with practical solutions to do the job. This telling news about Lake Powell’s ailing and potential death knell (by aggradation) is also fiercely contested by those who simply can’t or won’t believe that big blue bathtub fixture is not going to make the original projected lifespan of some 700 years (at the time of its inception dam engineers thought this figure realistic). Not too long ago, however, a new estimate of some 350 years was announced (quietly, that is). More recently in time the latest figure was even more alarming, say, around 100 years, if even that much time. To these agnostics confronting science head-on, it is utterly inconceivable how the stupendous canyon-to-basin storage changeover begun in the late 1950s could possibly end so soon (i.e., that unmentionable 100-year estimate). Besides, what will happen to the hustle-bustle tourista’s mecca with its lakefront property––Page, Arizona? This question, and more diatribes relative to this complicated issue, will be discussed in next week’s diary.
Before adding the final touches to this introduction to the morass of the Glen Canyon-Lake Powell main subject matter, let’s consider that other aforementioned boogeyman and natural liability that has also set its grip on Lake Powell’s liquid assets since the mid to late-1990s: drought. And, yes, most climatologists are in agreement the usual stingy precipitation here, as well as affecting most of the Southwest and part of the West, is likely traceable to the global warming phenomenon. As a consequence, the lake’s elevation has seriously declined over the years, say, the past twenty or so. The telltale mineral scar on canyon walls verifies this fact. Lake Mead also faces a similar fate, whose drawn-down waters are alarmingly even lower. Thus far, no one has figured a way to control or coerce Mother Nature to change her current temperament, then bring on the snow and rain. Sure, there are decent wet cycles here and there, but then the dry cycle returns, seeming with vengeance.
There is even more to tell about the basin storage problem at this upper end of the Colorado River. This time it has to do with the dam itself. Since it first released a regulated flow of water spewing out below the dam the downstream ecology has changed. . .seriously changed. Remember: the river that flows into the basin at the other end is not quite the same river that exits the dam. Its chemistry has changed. Its temperature has changed. That dam cold greenish water is also usually clear to the stream bed (due to abundant sunlight and a hefty growth of algae that generates the tincture). The point is, the dam-released Colorado River that enters Grand Canyon National Park has always been a shock to life forms (about 46º on average) that were once used to much warmer, siltier and muddier water (80º on average). Moreover, because the dam acts as a snare, and therefore the basin traps most of the sediment behind its barrier, Grand Canyon’s riverine corridor is relatively sediment free. The old dragon river (a popular sobriquet before the 1960s) can therefore no longer do the job it once did. Namely, scour the canyon’s deep interior with grit in its teeth––sediment. It can’t even replace former sandy beaches with more sand. The fact is, too much of the shoreline is rocky since the dam went in. (And if you paid some 2,000 USD for a commercial week-long rafting adventure through the Grand, would you rather sleep or rest in a tent anchored to soft sand or rocks with sparing sand and comfort?)
This trickle down bad news is dams eventually do these sort of things to anything and everything downstream from their large or small concrete bulwarks, including earthen dams. Consider, too, how the cold water has chased away former native fish species, like humpback chubs, razorback suckers and the Colorado pikeminnow. The scientific word for this is extirpate, meaning rooted out (actually, eliminated is a better for it). The good news is the water is so clean and clear on most days bald eagles and osprey are frequently seen picking off trout––a species that obviously favors cold water conditions (and of course, trout). So, what’s the loss of long time resident fish species compared to predator avians and an abundance of trout? Like the last question, this one is also rhetorical.
Meanwhile, Lake Powell remains a big draw for tourists and continues to be the biggest money-maker for the entire region. Yet its multifaceted environmental problems are what they are. Is it the lake setting that irks some people or a wake-up call that cannot be put off too much longer, as though a snooze button is pressed or the nightmare will go away on its own? Hence, the discussions about its future continue to continue.
The other fact is how this subject matter has vitalized citizens, business owners, and vested government agencies to rethink outmoded ideas about earmarking open spaces to the advantage of humans. The Glen Canyon National Recreation Area (GCNRA) is sorely in the spotlight these days, and not just for the sake of its lake-asset holdings geared to tourism. The bottom line about the unremitting discussions centered on Lake Powell’s environmental constitution requires the National Park Service (NPS) finally do something about these problems. Talk is good, but it never cooks the rice. Even Friends of Lake Powell (the advocates) want to see lake conditions improved, though not drained by dismantling the dam. The polemics over the years, and some of them quite outrageous given the accusations and disparaging name calling from either side of the dam-fence, demonstrates how impassioned these meeting of minds really are. Nevertheless, both sides are talking and so far neither opponent has knocked the block off the other.
All these manmade problems aside, there is still the daunting drought cycle that hangs over most of the Southwest, like a pall. It’s also reasonable how even proponents of the lake and dam concede this particular matter does not bode well for the lake much less the Southwest and parts of the West. Given this mitigated quagmire of declining health issue, Lake Powell is plainly a stressed downstream environment and nature’s spigot steadily turns more stingy. Moreover, weekly published calculations on the web relative to lake levels, and computed by scientists, are not fabricated, and therefore not hyperbole. Some marinas at the upper end of the lake are plainly in trouble due to unsightly mudflats. That’s because upper Lake Powell is now much further downstream compared to its former heyday years in the 1980s and early 1990s. As a matter of fact, Hite marina has been closed for years and it’s likely Bullfrog and Hall Crossing marinas may one day soon face the same fate. Cyclic bouts of drought also tend to do that sort of thing. Here in the Southwest the lack of precipitation is really not all that uncommon, especially in contemporary times. Surprising to some, the dry cycles are getting longer.
This subject brings to mind an eerie reminder of another people long ago who faced a similar fate: the Ancestral Puebloans. Popularly (and formerly) known as the Anasazi (although this designate has become outmoded many years ago), this prehistoric culture had migrated onto the Colorado Plateau sometime before the Common Era began. These so-called dry farmers managed to sustain their culture for well over a thousand years, mainly because they paid attention to how best to work with Mother Nature. There were dry cycles here and there, but the Ancestral Puebloans were a resourceful people; they came up with innovative ways to irrigate their farms and gardens (i.e., by check dams and reservoirs that funneled water to wherever it was needed). These were a sustainable and sage people in all ways. Their adopted homeland was also just that: a typically arid homeland that required astute attention to its resources.
Then in the late 13th Century, say, around 1287, the latest drought had set in and simply did not let go. In time, various communities, most of whom lived and thrived in and around the Four Corners axis region (say, Cortez, Colorado), made a pivotal decision to vacate their villages. The estimated number of Ancestral Puebloans in that mass diaspora may have topped over 100,000. They abandoned their great stone cities, like Mesa Verde, Chaco Canyon, Betatakin and Keet Seel, including all the other now preserved archeological ruins that are testimony to an abiding people who knew when it was time to go. And they never returned!
What if those frequent and funeral predictions by today’s climatologists are more factual than conjecture and hearsay (as some naysayers tend to think)? Where would the overcrowded Southwest’s people go today, whose numbers are in the mega millions? With this region’s most precious elixir, water, drawn down to the lowest levels ever recorded in modern history (for this sector of North America, at least), there is no fast and sure way to replenish this resource. Both the Colorado and Green rivers are simply over tapped resources by consumers and industries, as well as hampered by too many dams and too many reservoirs––these many basin storage units deemed necessary by the Colorado River Storage Project inception (passed in 1956), whose idea first began when the Colorado River Compact was signed in 1922. Ever since key upper and lower basin states (Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, Arizona and California) are forced to deal with its limited water resource, what Marc Reisner referred to as a Cadillac Desert (also the title of one of his most telling books).
Again, that was Zen and this is Tao. With steadily increasing global temperature, a relentless drought that affects parts of the world (while drowning others with too much precipitation), including all the rest of the worrisome aspects of global changes (from rising greenhouse emissions and seas to diminishing ice at both polar caps), Mother Nature has laid down her gauntlet in contemporary times, and in a variety of challenging ways. Here in this part of the world the Southwest’s canary in the coal mine scenario takes the form of two large basins at either end of the Grand Canyon. It appears we are losing both, yet the persistence of Page and other impassioned supporters of Lake Powell refuse to give up faith that its coveted and contested waterfront property asset will endure. (This prevalent attitude is confirmed on this website (http://www.lakepowell.org/), particularly listed in the site’s “25 Reasons Not to Drain Lake Powell.”)
Of course, there is nothing wrong with faith. Then again, there is something awry with consistently going against scientific facts, whose representative scientists aren’t just trying to scare the hell out of people. They’re also insisting that mythical river in Egypt, Denial, has no place in the usual droll politics that arises when a colloquy about Lake Powell and the Glen Canyon Dam are openly debated. As alluded to earlier, so far there is no satisfying resolution, and no serious attempts to rectify a bad situation that, by all accounts (given scientific evidence), is worsening. Yet so is aggradation and human-caused pollutants filtering through the lake.
If asked for a personal and concluding statement to this lengthy first missive, I would say the Bureau of Reclamation put the goddamn dam in the wrong dam place. That’s as nice as I can put it, because the drowning of a canyon lady really should never have happened in this sector. The Glen Canyon Dam was also an 11th hour choice (for a dam site), that is, after the Echo Lake project was defeated by protestors. Question is: Was it really an 11th hour selection or did the bureau know something many decades ago about numerous potential dam sites even before the Hoover Dam went in (in the mid-1930s)? There is also the fact Dominy wasn’t quite satisfied with the Glen Canyon Dam’s location but figured his next target would be none other than a downstream national park. Indeed, construction on one of those three proposed dam sites began not too long after the Glen Canyon Dam was built.
This is part 1 of 3 diaries pertaining to this subject matter. Pro and con intelligent commentary always welcomed. The continuation of this post follows next week.
Kindly Note: Given the upcoming series of missives I do not represent any fraternal pro environmental organization, no institution or government agency associated with Glen Canyon, and no authority whatsoever. Neither am I a scientist by trade, such as a climatologist or hydrologist. I just happen to be a paramour of the Glen and what happened here truly was an environmental sin. The least I can do is write in defense of this drowned canyon lady.
10:03 AM PT: Thank you for the rec list, as this is my first diary posting...ever. And
she' thanks you, as well...that lovely drowned lady who still means so much to me (and apparently to the DKos community! Amen and A-women!
1:48 PM PT: Folks, I am STILL overwhelmed with all your comments, your support, and some of the great stories you're sharing (and not just for me, but for everyone in the DKos community). WOW! I am going to take a wee break from posting (will be back at it later on) and in the meantime, to all you realistic or latent Monkey Wrencher types, Abbey had some literary fun with his sibling tomes on the dam, but lest it be forgotten. . .there was a study done years ago about, well, what happens if the Glen Canyon Dam were to topple (and it damn near did in 1983. . .by nature's hand). Turns out every dam down the line would not be capable of holding back such a mega deluge. Ergo, every dam and basin would utterly fail. Talk about a huge swamping and quick-running water for the Southwest (and useless). So, if anything, let's just let nature handle the problem, and, of course, supporting the scientific paths, even the conjecture of a long-running drought, is what it is. Besides, it wouldn't hurt any of us living here to be ultra conservative when using water. And, no, I'm not a fan of golf courses and such that like the green and use fresh water to keep it that way. Still, it is a policy and practice that's environmentally anathema to sustainability. But that's just me and how I see things. One thing's for sure and this Lake Powell topic has certainly found its support in this DKos community. Very much appreciated, too.