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Mother Nature's

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Mother Natures "Time Share"

Lake Powell is a family resort for many. Every year at least two million people enjoy its splendor. But I would assume they do not know the trouble that lies beneath. Lake Powell was voted in by a small margin in March, 1956. It was part of the Colorado River Storage Project, also known as CRSP. Ever since it's beginning, some of the people who helped build the dam have had regrets for what has been done to the canyon. Lake Powell has spurred controversy since its beginning on many issues: environmental problems, water rights, and the energy it generates. But the reservoir has its good points as well. There have been many jobs created and a thriving tourist market that have been the result of the dam. The concern now is the reservoir's water level. At forty percent it is the lowest we have seen the lake since its establishment. We are not expecting more water due to the drought and researchers say it will not be ending soon. The question is should Lake Powell be refilled?


In 1922 the Colorado River Compact was organized. This organization allocated the resources of the Colorado River and its tributaries. The Upper Basin States (Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming) realized that the Colorado River Compact had

overestimated the river's annual flow and wanted to guarantee their water rights. The only way the Upper Basin states saw fit to ensure their water was to literally hold onto their water in reservoirs.

1956 brought the beginning of the Glen Canyon dam. But Glen Canyon was not the only site that was being considered as a possible site for the reservoir. Echo Park, in Dinosaur National Monument was another option that was being discussed by the Bureau of Reclamation. The Sierra Club was fighting to keep both dams from being built. In the end they had the choice and traded Glen Canyon for Echo Park (Ritchey).

June of 1960 brought the beginning of the dam. Five million yards of concrete were poured into the canyon over the period of two years. The construction did not stop until the dam was complete in September of 1962. After Glen Canyon Dam was completed, and to this day, it stands 710 feet with an average water depth of 560 feet when the reservoir is full. The dam stops water for one 186 miles up stream, creating 2,200 miles of shore line (Booth).

In June of 1980 Lake Powell was filled. For most of us we think of pleasure boating and fun. And for a special few that had spent time in the canyon, they remember Glen Canyon as the heart of the Colorado Plateau, such as the late Edward Abbey. Abbey was the author of controversial books that were set in the Four Corners area. His most popular book was The Monkey Wrench Gang. It revolved around Glen Canyon and eco-terrorism. The conclusion of the book, which caused the most controversy, was that the characters would load a house boat full of dynamite and blow up Glen Canyon dam.

Abbey was also a Park Ranger in Arches National Park for 20 years and always was an out spoken activist on the focus of preserving the American West.

Economy & Tourism

The biggest contribution of Lake Powell was not made by the water nor the electricity that it generated, but by the people that the lake draws for its many recreational activities. Lake Powell attracts 2.5 million people annually. The lake has year round activities; fishing all year and water skiing in the summer. The summer activities are the most popular with the water temperatures reaching 80 degrees. The house boats alone that are stored on the lake are estimated being worth over 190 million dollars. These boats range from just enough to house a small family, too multi-million dollar three and four story floating creations (Living). The people that use the lake give the very existence to the towns of Page, Arizona and Bullfrog, Utah; not to mention the other marinas around the lake. These towns have provided year round amenities until now.

This is the first year that Lake Powell has had to close year round facilities. With the water levels decreasing, Lake Powell has seen a significant drop in visitors to the lake for four years now. The surrounding towns depend on the visitors for their lively-hood. It has been said the cause was not the level of water, despite the fact that it has dropped 135 feet and is at forty percent of "full-pool". Due to many factors: the decline of the foreign exchange rates, gas prices from the summer of 2004, and the recent terrorist attacks on the United States; there has been lower attendance to all of the National Parks.(11) Even while taking these facts into account, it is hard to rationalize that the water level has not affected the park more than the parks officials have led us to believe.

(figure 1. ksl 5 lake powell

As of November, 15 2004 ARAMARK, who owns the concessionaire rights to five of the lake's marinas, will be closing down all their restaurants and lodging, due to the lack of the lake's visitors. There will still be partial services open in the bigger marinas of Wahweap, Bullfrog, and Hall's Crossing. Their services will be very limited and will include boat rentals, the occasional scenic tour, and fuel services. At the smaller marinas there will be fuel available for "pay at the pump" customers (Ritchey).

Though there have been arrangements made for the lower water levels, it has not seemed to help, even in some cases a futile effort. In the spring of 1999, Antelope Point

Marina was finished, at the cost of seventy million dollars. Despite the fact the ramp was intended to be the solution for the problem of the diminishing water level, Antelope Point Marina was the first boat ramp to close down, just three years later, in the summer of 2002. There is another ramp intended for Antelope Point on the opposite side of the marina, but studies have shown that it will end abruptly at the edge of a 500 foot cliff that is not out of the water yet. Another solution is that there has been a three million dollar appropriation bill approved to extend the ramps at Bullfrog, Hall's Crossing, and Wahweap (Ritchey). With the recent drop in tourism, and water levels that are not cooperating it has proved to be very expensive to the company. This makes the decisions of ARAMARK critical for winter and year round boaters at Lake Powell. The thought of moving marinas has arisen but the expense is too great. It is hard to say what the outcome will be, but the hope of having big water years similar to that of those in 1983



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