Other Reasons to Decommission Glen Canyon Dam
Glen Canyon Dam was completed in 1963. Promoted as a water supply and
hydroelectric facility, Glen Canyon Dam is proving to be an
environmental, economic, technical and social liability.
The tremendous inflows of sediment into Lake Powell reservoir will
soon render Glen Canyon Dam useless. Sediment is fast approaching the
level of the bypass tubes used as the first line of defense to
prevent floods from overtopping the dam. Once these tubes are
blocked, the dam will have to be decommissioned.
Lake Powell reservoir loses up to seven percent of the Colorado's
annual flow through evaporation into the dry desert air, and seepage
into the porous sandstone surrounding it. Evaporative losses on a
single Labor Day weekend could satisfy the needs of 17,000 western
homes for a year.
Glen Canyon Dam has the capacity to provide just three percent of the
energy used in the Southwest. The deterioration of Grand Canyon's
native river habitat illustrates that this is not clean energy. The
power from Glen Canyon Dam could be entirely replaced should ten
million homes in the region replace two standard light bulbs with
Glen Canyon Dam's hydroelectric power revenues are not sufficient to
repay the dam's construction costs as was required by law. Neither
are dam revenues sufficient to finance the rapidly escalating costs
of environmental mitigation in Grand Canyon. More revenue with fewer
expenses could be generated by decommissioning the dam and selling
the water currently lost to evaporation and seepage from Lake Powell.
In 1983, the Colorado River nearly spilled over the top of Glen
Canyon Dam and the dam's spillway tunnels nearly collapsed. Described
as a once-in-25-year flood event, this scenario is likely to reoccur.
Additionally, the highly porous sandstone, in which the dam is set,
is prone to splintering and collapse.
Restore Sacred Sites
Many religious sites were inundated by Lake Powell. One was Rainbow
Bridge, the world's largest natural bridge. Despite protest from
Navajo medicine people and designation as a National Monument, it
became a victim of the reservoir behind Glen Canyon Dam.
Restore the Joy
A redrock wonderland of nearly 125 side canyons, hidden arches,
grottos, and stone chambers is poised to reemerge when Glen Canyon
Dam is decommissioned. Nature's forces have repeatedly illustrated
that when reservoirs are drained native ecosystems can return with
limited human intervention.
Recreation on Lake Powell is destined to disappear as sediment fills
the reservoir. However, when Glen Canyon is restored hiking, rafting
and biking will fast take its place, generating significant income as
they do elsewhere on the Colorado Plateau.