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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Wanted to respond to DroBoat without continuing the derailing of the "how to" thread:

Dam Removal as An Option

So, the dam removal along the Elwha is the most extensive one I am aware of (biggest in world history if I have read properly). The entire restoration is estimated at $325 million dollars (from purchasing power plants all the way to vegetation rehabilitation). The maximum catchment was limited to 280 sq miles (the limits of the Elwha drainage). The sediment contained behind both dams was to 13 million cubic yards. Included in the figure above was the $29 million dollar purchase of the 2 hydroelectric plants in 1992. (would be close to $50 million today). The two dams combined generated only 19 megawatts or roughly 172 million KW*h(according to survey required by 1992 Act) which equates to 1,100 to 1,200 homes served. The tallest of the two dams was 210 feet tall. The Elwha River is 45 miles long.

Compare that to Lake Powell:

108,300 sq mile catchment
Lake Powell is 186 miles long
710 feet tall
61 million cubic yards sediment load in Lake Powell Per Year
64 billion KW*h annually or roughly 320,000 homes (much less than stated capacity due to lake levels and operating capacity)(confusing statistics out there as each region consumes different power annually)

SO.....642 times bigger catchment; 5 times the sediment load in one year compared to almost a century of collection; and a power plant that generates 372 times as much power annually.

I don't remotely know how to calculate how much that would cost to demolish and rehabilitate but I think its fair to say....multiples times more than the Elwha and exponential more than the measly $750k per year they are investing in quagga programs. Take the $325 million for the Elwha....it would take 433 years to compare (current $750k). Even when the quaggas start to affect power generation to the levels of the Great Lakes we are talking 80 years of maintenance to compare to that outlandishly low estimate (at $4 million per year). Considering the scope of Lake Powell (ecologically and economically) we are likely looking at number well into the hundreds of billions of dollars. If you go on megawatt generation alone it would cost more than a billion to just outright buy the power plant (not likely a liner relationship).

None of those numbers include the need to generate water storage and power to offset the losses. The footwork there doesn't remotely favor your conclusions about the costs of quagga programs.

Thoughts?

Phillip
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
*Correction....BoR operates Glen Canyon Dam so a cost comparison is inaccurate in that regard, as far as purchasing. I would assume an Act of Congress would only need to pay back the remaining debt of construction but I am uncertain.
 

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While I am not a big fan of dams and the problems they create, I am realistic. It's not a simple as remove the dam and all problems go away.

Dams and the altered ecosystem they create are a reality in our Western states. The entire waterway below a major dam like Glen Canyon has been altered to coexist with the new reality of the dam. 60 years of development and growth has occurred along the waterway that now depend on the dam being there. Removing an existing dam has huge economic impact.

Removing a large dam will effect downstream communities that are no longer protected from seasonal flooding. Existing homes and structures would need to be relocated. Roads, highways and railways that follow the river would need to be relocated. For example: Most of the electrical power plants in East of the divide burn coal that is transported along the Colorado River on a railway bed that is only a few feet above the water. Take away the dams that protect it from flooding and Denver runs out of electricity.

Established businesses that depend on the water supply, such as agriculture, are the economic foundation for entire regions. Take the water away and some states no longer have an viable economy. Just this morning I heard on the radio that California, with it's dams, provides 50% of the fresh produce consumed in this country. That is a lot of food that will need to come from somewhere else.

As reluctant as I am to admit it, I actually benefit from some dams. There have been several threads recently celebrating the long boating season we have enjoyed this year. How many of those waters are sill flowing do to a dam? Do you really think Green River below Flaming Gorge would be running 1400 cfs in November if the dam was gone? How many whitewater companies would be in business if the season lasted just a few weeks instead of an entire summer? The typical rafting season on the free running Yampa ends in June, while the dam controlled flows on Gates of Ladore provide rafting opportunities well into July or August.

Dams are a serious problem that need national attention, but it is foolish to suggest that simply removing them fixes things.
 

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Kengore,

EXCELLENT post!!!

Thanks Restrac for moving this discussion here and for your insightful thoughts on the economics. It's easy to RA-RA dam removal, but it's really not easy to remove dams...

As a geologist I typically look at the geologic/morphologic constraints of dam removal but the socioeconomic constraints are truly the most limiting factor.

Thanks again for the thoughtfull informative posts!

Brian
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I will admit I find the issue and idea intriguing and have ever since I started exploring the canyons of the Escalante. They offer an interesting case study for the natural reclamation side canyons can provide over time. Granted, the photographic evidence below only works for drainages that are substantial, in the upper elevations of Lake Powell with relatively limited inundation and in these cases perennial flowing water.

PHOTOGRAPHIC DOCUMENTATION

On a some what side note...Bill Wolverton has shown what tireless and concerted efforts can do for ecosystems. He has worked for years now recruiting organizations and individuals to actively participate in the stewardship of the Escalante, especially in regards to invasive species. That said, its also frightening to see how much time they have put into the region and the relatively limited impact. When you consider the very shallow inundation (relative to the lower reaches of Lake Powell) the scale of the problem becomes unnerving and disheartening. The size of the sand banks in lower Cataract and say Diamond Down are telling. Their durability is profound.

I think its fair to conclude that there is nothing natural about what Glen Canyon would be if the dam was removed. Jumping from the largest removal of dams in human history, the Elwha River system at a mere 15 miles long, to something the scale of Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell is not something I am sure we are even capable of at this point, wether that be human (social, economic and political) systems or managing natural processes for reclamation. The lessons from the Elwha aren't remotely understood yet.

Phillip
 

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In Praise of Checkpoint Quagga

I'll leave you boys alone so you can proselytize the Wrecked worldview and praise your government masters.

All hail Floyd Dominy, the Wrecked Savior and Slayer of the Colorado River.
 

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Yes Droboat please leave.

In over 10 posts on several threads even remotely related to the topic you have failed to provide a single constructive comment. This kind of irrational chest thumping doesn't move towards a solution and make others think the entire boating community is full of wing nuts. Even when you are provided a new thread to express your limited opinion you find the time to clutter the other threads with your repetitive diatribe.

Yes we get it, you don't like dams. And you don't like anybody that doesn't agree with you.

Now shut up and let the the adults try to find a practical solution.
 

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Check into reality much?

So I posted the response to this quote (from the how to comply thread) here so as not to further derail that thread.

Restrac2000's obsequious, irrational and strident defense of Wrecked's dying Colorado River dam regime might explain his lack of any numbers showing the benefits of free rivers and a free society. Lots of words providing little more than an emotional defense of dams based on manifest destiny and religious belief, not facts.

No real numbers on costs and benefits of returning the Colorado River system and individual rights to a pre-dam regime as compared to the costs of setting up Checkpoint Quaggas to extend the failing Wrecked status quo. Pennies on the dollar is indeed pure bullshit.

I get it. Admitting the folly of the Wrecked dams and accepting that a totalitarian response to mussels is futile and counterproductive is upsetting to a belief system based on conquest and control. I didn't expect a rational response when I called bullshit. Wrecked and its apologists will keep on believing in the benevolence and resilience of the Wrecked dams, without fact or numbers.

BTW - Although the inevitable demise of Glen Canyon Dam is a powerful symbol of the Wrecked oppression of free flowing rivers and people, the true benefits and costs of delaying the inevitable spread of invasive mussels throughout a dammed Colorado River basin is the question AH's post highlighted. Taking out the dams, takes out the mussels.
Rational? What's rational about the gibberish quoted above. The pennies on the dollar concept is clear as day, the costs associated with mussel prevention and control programs pale in comparison to the costs associated with the removal of a Colorado River dam. So suggesting using the funds from the prevention and control programs to fund dam removal falls short, way short. Others posting to this thread HAVE presented facts, numbers, sources, comparisons; you present opinion, heavily biased opinion supported by generalizations. It's obvious you're passionate about dam removal, and if you want to forward your cause it would behoove you to do research and present data. From what I've read, no one posting to this thread has stated they want the Colorado dams to remain, they've simply attempted to show why their removal is highly problematic and ultimately unlikely in the foreseeable future. A few even attempted to illustrate the value that some dams have to society, boating and themselves. That is actually rational.
 

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Little Boys with Dam Toys

Based on the vitriol, my guess is that the inability to acknowledge and cope with my constructive points is lodged deep in little boy brains that yell "shut up" to troubling facts and quagga nightmares.

There has been no rational or reasoned response to my basic, and very constructive point - taking out the CRSP dams and letting the Colorado flow again may provide the only economically and ecologically effective solution to preventing quagga mussels establishment in the basin. Restrac2000s said it would be pennies on the dollar to implement a quagga crackdown and delay the inevitable, and I called bullshit. Instead of numbers, he posted tantrums.

And I get it, little boy brains love dams and need government masters to preserve the failing status quo that Daddy Dominy built. I have faith that each will collapse, soon.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Its a funny claim about my stance as I live in a town that unanimously rejected an attempt to force our hand into the proposed (and state approved) Lake Powell Pipeline. Since 2006 they have been hiring advocates to persuade Cedar City and Iron County to buy into the project. We officially rejected participation in 2012. I remember when I was a county Democratic delegate listening to the pro-pipeline speaker. Most of us were shaking our head in disbelief. Talk about crazy, we are a city of roughly 30,000 people and they wanted to add a pipeline from Sand Hollow (quagga infested already) that would travel 3,000 vertical feet to our small town. I think estimates were in the range of $40k per household for the cost of construction and transmission of water.

Back in the early aughts I was one of a handful of the first people to descend a slot canyon that had been submerged on Lake Powell for decades. At the time it was the most exposure the amazing canyon had seen in decades, at least according to information available. One documented descent had been published but the two famous explorers had to turn around much earlier than we did during the trip. Right before the lake we had to use "meat anchors" (using each other) to drop through 2 pothole arches and to the boat. Most of sat there for a while realizing how long this feature had been submerged. Its likely no one had ever been to this spot considering the technical skills and equipment required and the era in which it was inundated by the dam. It was a powerful experience and taught me a lot. Lake Powell has been a hotspot since the the reservoir has been receding. A specific elevation in the geology seems to hold a plethora of spectacular slot canyons that have challenged the ever progressing sport of canyoneering. Its wild to consider how long these gems were "hidden", i.e. drowned, by that huge impoundment. The explorations are well beyond my skill or desire anymore. I am constantly oscillating between wonder and sadness at that landscape.

I have spent something like 20 total days solo sea kayaking Lake Powell. Its less than ideal as I would prefer to be floating with a current but you make due with what you have. On some levels the experiences were profound. I saw one boat in the course of those two trips as I chose fringe season dates to adventure. It turned out mid-December wasn't ideal and I bailed the first time when my wetsuit froze solid a few miles "downstream" of Halls Crossing. I bailed and returned a few years later to go from Wahweap to BullFrog. I experienced everything one does in wilderness with the blatant lack of "untrammeled" landscape. I dealt with wild weather and taught myself to kayak sail in the lakes predictable spring winds (hence 2nd trip in reverse). I explored slot canyons with little to no information and all the weight of my actions. I found uncharted canyons and scuttled as far as I could alone without rope. But in those experiences I also saw the wreckage first hand. Decimated terrestrial ecosystems. Bath tub rings that seem to go on forever. Emaciated sport fish that aren't remotely native. Millions of carp. Lost springs and seeps galore. Poisoned bays. The unfathomable and unquantifiable loss of thousands of archeological ruins. Just to name a few.

When individuals like DroBoat try and paint me into a corner I remember the depth of those experiences. They are still visceral. My complicated relationship and values of land and management aren't easily pegged down by me or the people that know me well. I think many of us bounce around within the three dimensional boundaries that are inherent to these issues. Few of us are statically camped in one place from what I have learned.

So I guess if I am gonna be charged with an emotional response I might as well wear it (as above). Ironically, it better aligns with the preference for "natural" (free flowing rivers in this case) ecosystems than man made infrastructure and impoundments. I still don't know exactly where I will land in the long run but from what I know and constructive feedback people provide it doesn't tend to overlap with DroBoats statement in any Venn Diagram I can imagine.

Best of luck DroBoat. But next time don't forget to call me verbose or pedantic.

Phillip
 

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I think you could generate enough electricity to replace the dam by building a solar array in the Wahweap basin and plugging into the existing electric lines. It wouldn't be able to ramp for peak power, but that function has been hampered dramatically by limiting the tidal flows in the Grand already.
The sediment in the Elwah was purposefully left stranded on the shore by slowly dropping the lake levels, so the required mitigation for the downstream water treatment plants was surprisingly minimal. Powell has a lot more silt, but it's spread out more too, so you could do the same thing and avoid a big mud flow. The big issue there is it would all eventually run down into Mead and shorten that reservoir's life even further, but that's an inevitability anyway.
You wouldn't have to pay to remove the dam like they did on the Elwah, you could re-open the diversion tunnels and just bypass the dam site. Leave the plug as a monument to man's stupidity...
As for costs, how much does 750,000 acre feet of water fetch on the open market each year? Powell evaporates and seeps about that much annually, so increased available water would outweigh the lost storage. I was just at Hoover Dam a couple days ago. Plenty of room for all of Powell's water down there right now.
I don't have an answer for the loss of the houseboat economy, rafters and climbers don't drop the same coin as power boaters, but otherwise I actually think removing (or actually bypassing) Glen Canyon Dam is financially very realistic.
The big hurdle I see is that by giving storage upstream of Lee's Ferry, it allows the upper basin states to control their deliveries to the lower basin. Removing the dam would probably require re-addressing the compact, and if that isn't a can of worms, I don't know what is.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
The solar farm is an interesting idea. For comparison the Ivanpah facility generates 1,000 GW*h annually. Glen Canyon Dam generates 64,000 GW*h. So a facility in Wahweap region would need to be 64 times larger (assuming linear relationship) than the facility in SE California. It is 3,500 acres and cost $2.2 billion to build, with $600 million from private support.

Phillip
 

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The Elwha dam was blown a 1/3 at a time so it wasnt that gradual. The sediment was way up the banks this fall when I was out there. One of the storms that hit the area this fall seems to have flushed it quite a bit. The big thing there is wood. Tons of wood that will be flushing for years to come.
 

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Yes Droboat please leave.

Yes we get it, you don't like dams. And you don't like anybody that doesn't agree with you.

Now shut up and let the the adults try to find a practical solution.

Don't listen to them, Droboat. Some of us appreciate your frankness and passion about these issues. Keep it up!
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
I think you could generate enough electricity to replace the dam by building a solar array in the Wahweap basin and plugging into the existing electric lines. It wouldn't be able to ramp for peak power, but that function has been hampered dramatically by limiting the tidal flows in the Grand already.
The sediment in the Elwah was purposefully left stranded on the shore by slowly dropping the lake levels, so the required mitigation for the downstream water treatment plants was surprisingly minimal. Powell has a lot more silt, but it's spread out more too, so you could do the same thing and avoid a big mud flow. The big issue there is it would all eventually run down into Mead and shorten that reservoir's life even further, but that's an inevitability anyway.
You wouldn't have to pay to remove the dam like they did on the Elwah, you could re-open the diversion tunnels and just bypass the dam site. Leave the plug as a monument to man's stupidity...
As for costs, how much does 750,000 acre feet of water fetch on the open market each year? Powell evaporates and seeps about that much annually, so increased available water would outweigh the lost storage. I was just at Hoover Dam a couple days ago. Plenty of room for all of Powell's water down there right now.
I don't have an answer for the loss of the houseboat economy, rafters and climbers don't drop the same coin as power boaters, but otherwise I actually think removing (or actually bypassing) Glen Canyon Dam is financially very realistic.
The big hurdle I see is that by giving storage upstream of Lee's Ferry, it allows the upper basin states to control their deliveries to the lower basin. Removing the dam would probably require re-addressing the compact, and if that isn't a can of worms, I don't know what is.
The idea of using current evaporative loss for economic gain is an interesting one as well. Asleep, how does one propose to use said offset without developing further impoundments? The system would have to account for the existing dispersal of water from Powell and add the estimate 1 million acre feet into the system. This is a pivotal question as even with the 2 impoundments states are clambering over promised water that is currently in deficit. As someone who fought buying into the false promises and future fights (i.e. Lake Powell Pipeline) I don't see how we can expect Congress and stakeholders to fold over without addressing this very real issue.

I would also be curious to see someone counter the studies done by the BoR regarding how Mead fails without Powell. Evidently before Powell existed Mead was functionally dewatered several times (mostly in the 50s). If there is a different study from a third party I would love to see it. Currently what is stated by anti-dam fans is justification for loss of both dams which escalates the existing numbers and fails to address water storage for dispersal according to the Compact. I don't see how the conversation is tenable from the side of demolition until we address how western states get their water without Powell or Mead.

I would love to see this issue addressed. When I search anti-dam websites I find plenty of environmental justification (like dams placed before NEPA/EIS and Congess actively banning DoI from starting studies, etc) for removal but I have yet to find any information explaining how we would disperse water and how much demolition and construction of less destructive water regimes would cost.

Phillip
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Don't listen to them, Droboat. Some of us appreciate your frankness and passion about these issues. Keep it up!
I know we have a complicated history Brian but I am curious how DroBoats consistent harassment (have you seen how she treats Susan Novak on the San Juan updates), threadjacking and rather ironic comments (they haven't engaged in empirical facts yet) is productive for the anti-dam crowd? As someone who actually engaged them and intentionally tried to provide a platform to discuss the issue I was insulted with ad-hominem attacks. On the other hand Asleep actually engaged the discussion. I know I hadn't read of the idea of supplementing hydro with solar in the Wahweap Basin. I learned something and spent time looking into other such projects in this part of the West.

I don't want to shut them down myself. I agree their passion is admirable. I believe it will take someone with their passion but with a completely different mix of communication skills and equipped with a specific set of facts to actually make removal viable in the future. All too often the comments by users like DroBoat try and paint other users and stakeholders into false narratives. This isn't a black and white issue. Ironically the us-versus-them attitude they use completely abandons the very people likely needed to move the issue forward.

I would love to see someone passionate and educated engage and show us how we actually transform the Glen Canyon region from its current state to something different. I see the passion but I rarely have seen the content of that process. So many of us have watched the removal of dams in the PNW with wetted appetites. I would love to move past the rhetoric and see how we go from the scale of something like the small Elwha to the massive scale of Glen Canyon transformed.

My little boy brain is waiting.

Phillip
 

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Rarely does the status quo ever change.

When it does, it is driven by absolute necessity, or unquestionable economic realities.

Much like the "rock bottom" for addicts, certain changes require a "change or die" situation.

Environmental policies, and entrenched ideologies (economic & environmental) are very difficult to alter, due to the many interests which are willing to fight to the death to preserve the structure upon which their prosperity was founded -- even if this means their own eventual demise.

The very existence of many cities and economies relies upon the dams of the Colorado. They will not martyr themselves for a free-flowing river. Only when these cities and economies are on death's door, will the status quo be re-considered.
 

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Neither Glen Canyon nor Hoover are producing anywhere near their rated capacity of power, less flow down less head = much less output. I don't know what the two dams are producing now, but it's a whole lot less than full pool at higher flows. Mead is only 30 feet from dead pool, when they essentially are just a glorified run of the river power plant like Shoshone. A lot of the upper basin storage was built as part of the same phase as Glen Canyon, so deliveries into Powell are more consistent now than when Mead was the sole storage site for the lower basin like in the 50's. The compact is written as if there is more water than there actually is. Utah and Nevada have run up into their compact allotments, but Colorado hasn't yet. If Colorado ever starts to feel the pinch too, and when Douglas County runs out of aquifers and tries to tap western slope water that will happen soon, we'll be in a position to talk about usable water, not just storage capacity. It will be an epic pissing match, but the reality of less available water will eventually trump ideology. Powell is interesting, because it doesn't actually supply any water except to Lee's Ferry, but as long as the compact demands a rolling 10 year average of 7.5 maf + 1/2 the 1.5 maf promised to Mexico to be delivered to Lee's Ferry annually, the likelihood of a call on the upper basin in order to maintain storage between the above-Powell reservoirs and Mead is really high, and the upper basin wouldn't go for it. But since we're only a couple bad years away from de-watering both Powell and Mead, the issue might be here soon anyway. Arizona has been using their CAP water to recharge aquifers, if that was done more broadly we wouldn't need as much surface storage which has the inevitable evaporative loss.

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.

Also, the biggest reason Mead will fail is sediment. Removing Powell would mandate some sort of dredging program in Mead. Scary to propose, but worth it to restore Glen and Grand Canyons in my mind.
 
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