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Old 11-16-2014   #21
cedar city, Utah
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 1,928
Originally Posted by View Post
Not really a definitive answer, but I really believe thinking outside the traditional environmental arguments would allow for Powell to be removed with a fairly minimal total economic impact.
Powell water allotment is minimal. They also provide water to Page and the coal plant but those are microscopic in the big scheme of things.

To be fair though water loss is significantly lower in drought years in the lake so part of the argument diminishes. Its also important to note that stretch of river lost 102,000 AF a year before the dam according to the GCI, which has a 12% decrease in the annual loss used most often. Much of the "loss" stated is actually is to seepage which isn't really "lost" at all but thought to be recharging the local aquifers. Lost to the compact but not the region. I also thought a large portion of that was lost in the first decade during filling (like 1/3 total water storage at full pool).

I am curious about the statement would the figure be minimal? Even at 50% power generation (the most consistently quoted average) we are still talking solar generation in the range of 30 times the size of Ivanpah. BoR claims roughly 75% capacity but I can understand why some folks might consider that # suspect. Offsetting the hydro plant with coal would largely be unconscionable in the Grand Canyon region in my book and inconsistent with dam removal. The bypass option does offer just less than a decade of extra power generation but the concept of leaving that Dam in place is unappealing to say the least.

I also think the idea that the economic cost would be "minimal" ignores the ecological restoration costs. If the major rational for removal is environmental and ecological than restoration would be key. Sediment removal would likely take decades and require infrastructure itself. GCI claims 6-8 years for the main stem but I found no support for that estimate. Considering the side canyons were the main draw I think their sediment erosion would be a key metric of success. The lower stretches of Cataract, the San Juan or Diamond Down paint a real picture of how damaged these systems are after inundation and for much longer than anti-dam organizations claim.

Restoring aquatic systems would be a gargantuan undertaking that could take decades. They would have to poison the entire stretch including side canyons. Several of the sports fish would die naturally when the lake is decommissioned but many would survive. The channel catfish would be one and its a major predator of native juveniles.

I have never heard how agencies would revegetate such a massive landscape. Invasives tend to currently be more successful at reclamation of damaged ecosystems so this is a major threat. Not to mention all of the large trees in the main corridor and side canyons are dead. We are talking about 180 miles alone on the main stem of the river. From what I can tell about 1/2 the $325 million for the Elwha went to ecological restoration for 321 sq miles of shoreline. Revegetating and restoring 108,000 square miles of shoreline in a region with massive issues of invasive is a staggering effort that is anything but cheap. It seems counterproductive to drain the reservoir only to allow it to be inundated by aquatic and terrestrial invasive species.

I think we have the imagination and manpower to do a lot with Glen Canyon but "minimal economic impact" doesn't seem to be in the picture at all. The myth of Glen Canyon is largely perpetuated on bucolic scenes of sandy beaches and hikes like Cathedral in the Desert or Music Temple. Without considerable economic and human investment I easily foresee 180+ miles of a wholly desolate, ecologically dysfunctional and uninviting river corridor. Realistic outcomes normally sit somewhere between two points of such spectrums. But I have to wonder what is the point if it ends up closer to the current examples than the ideal?


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Old 11-16-2014   #22
Westminster, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1999
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 524
I appreciate your thoughts on this.
I think it might take longer, but just letting a natural flow regime run through the canyon would do a good enough job cleaning it up. Any time millions get spent on landscape restoration, it always strikes me as a bit of a boondoggle. Don't let perfect get in the way of good and all that. The lower end of Cat has changed dramatically for the better in the 11 years I've seen it with low lake levels. Same with the side canyons - eventually they would flash really strongly once or twice and be clean. Sure there would be tammies and tumbleweeds, but eventually the soil will run off the slickrock and it will be pretty pristine once again. And Mead will be more full of sediment, but it'll happen eventually anyway. Cottonwoods grow really well under natural flood conditions, they'll come back... F&W already runs catfish killing trips, they would just have to continue them through Glen Canyon. I'll volunteer to row the boat with the electroshock generator!
I'm not saying no cost, just that total economic impact is pretty small compared with the water saved. BoR quotes 2-3% annual loss to evaporation (not seepage), 3% of full pool that's 750,000 acre feet without counting seepage. You can buy a lot of solar panels and replace a lot of houseboat income for what you could fetch by selling that much water in San Diego or Denver or Las Vegas. But, until you fix the compact, deliveries to Lee's Ferry will consistently trump my desire to float from Red Canyon to Grand Canyon uninterrupted.
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Old 11-16-2014   #23
cedar city, Utah
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 1,928
I appreciate the interaction as well which I fear isn't always obvious from the way I comment and interact with information. To be honest I had never heard of the "bypass" option and have been trying to better understand advocates ideas since that was mentioned.

Ironically, because of this thread I discovered a pending BoR reservoir and dam project in the headwaters of the Price River I have begun investigating.

Thanks for chatting.

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Old 11-24-2014   #24
Old Guy in a PFD
Tucson, Arizona
Paddling Since: 1967
Join Date: Feb 2013
Posts: 1,022
It probably doesn't matter, but I'm compelled to point out that eventually the river will resolve the question of dam removal regardless of our wants/needs/expectations. Not in our lifetimes unless we get a spectacular event, but never the less; the debate will be resolved by the river, not by us.

Demonize someone or something if you must regarding those damn dams, but understand in the end that even though we stuck the cork in, we won't be the one(s) removing it.
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Old 11-24-2014   #25
cedar city, Utah
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 1,928
Yeah, its hard to know which #s to trust considering they normally come from people on one extreme or the other. GCI would like us to believe the life expectancy of it is very close to ending while BoR has #s that seem exceedingly high for such silt loading. The low end of the BoR #s would put it at another 50 years (and upwards of another 300 which seems laughable).

At 35 I wouldn't be shocked if I see it come down in my lifetime but I am not holding my breathe. I don't imagine I will ever see a worthwhile river trip down Glen Canyon in my lifetime nor do I think any kids or grandkids I may have will ever experience anything resembling a scenic, healthy river system in there.


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