Time to tear down Glen Canyon Dam?

Should Glen Canyon Dam be torn down?

  • Yes

    Votes: 30 78.9%
  • No

    Votes: 8 21.1%

  • Total voters
    38

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Nick

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Thread starter #1
Seems like there's been more about this in the last year than in the last 20. Now it's the former head of the Bureau of Reclamation calling for it to come down. Sounds a little crazy, but I wonder if it's something that might even happen in our lifetimes. I mean, who would've thought 20 years ago that recreational weed would be legal in a handful of states? A lot can happen when the tide of public opinion shifts.

http://www.sltrib.com/home/2336694-155/former-federal-water-manager-proposes-tearing
http://kuer.org/post/its-time-change-water-policy-past-dam-agency-leader-says
http://www.theecologist.org/blogs_a...ake_powell_is_dead_long_live_glen_canyon.html
http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/10/14/glen-canyon-dam-50-years/2981273/

Thoughts?

IMG_2818.jpg
 

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WasatchWill

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#2
How would it affect the water shed and those who rely on the reserve of water? Then again, it looks like we'll know soon with it only being about 45% capacity last I saw and only appears it will be at lesser capacity before it gets higher. If it ever does come down, there will be a lot of sad boaters. And what would the expense be to blast it all down and haul out all that cement?
 
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#3
Cool. I've been reading about it a lot lately. I love the idea of seeing glen canyon as it once was, and I feel the pros of removing the dam outweigh the cons. I need to research both sides of the argument more, but at the moment, I'm all for it!

I imagine that place would be a zoo if it were ever drained. It'll suddenly be on every outdoorsy american's to-do list (including mine).

I think the # of people who enjoy motorized boating on powell outweigh the # of people who would want to hike or float it. It could be a tough and polarizing battle.
 

Nick

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Thread starter #5
How would it affect the water shed and those who rely on the reserve of water?
It depends on who you ask. That last link on USA Today has some pretty good stats and info from both sides. Pro-dam people say that Powell is better storage because it is higher elevation than Mead and therefore wouldn't evaporate as much because of cooler temps. Others say that Mead is a better storage reservoir because it is more bowl-shaped and less porous rock with a fraction of the shore line and side canyons. Years ago the BoR figured Powell is losing something like a million acre feet of water a year to evaporation and 'bank storage' from water that leaks into the porous navajo sandstone. That's about 4 million households worth of water for one year, worth about $1 billion in southern California (from the article I read). LP's full water capacity is 24 million af and Mead's is 26 million.

If it ever does come down, there will be a lot of sad boaters.

Yeah, there would be a lot of sad boaters and people would no doubt be pissed. A pretty big industry of tourism and houseboat rentals would also die. I don't know if you've ever cruised past the slips at Wahweap or Antelope Point, but WOW. LOTS of money down there.


And what would the expense be to blast it all down and haul out all that cement?
No clue, but it cost about $325 million to remove the Glines Canyon Dam, the largest dam removal to date. Glines was 210 feet high. Glen Canyon Dam is 710 feet high and 300 feet thick at the base! I don't know if it's possible, but I wonder if there's some way to just reopen the diversion tunnels?

Videos of Glines Canyon going down:


The quagga mussel problem is another reason I feel extra compelled to knock that sucker down. As the quaggas reproduce and take over all of the submerged surfaces, it's going to start getting really ugly when the water drops. I've heard reports that you can see them on the walls in the Castle Rock Cut right now (I forgot to look when I was there). There was a also a news story a couple months ago that a couple found a GoPro scuba diving and found the owner. It had been in the lake for 6 months and was already covered in mussels. Just a few weeks ago the UDWR biologist down there caught a mussel on his fish hook. I have this fear that the mussels will go crazy and cover the walls, then when the water drops like it is right now, instead of that ugly bathtub ring, we'll all be staring at rock walls covered in billions of mussels. If that were to happen, and then even if you drained the whole lake, how long would it take for canyons to recover if the walls were lined with mussels? And even if you didn't drain it, just natural fluctuation, will Lake Powell still be something even the recreational boaters would want to see then? Maybe just look up above the bathtub/mussel ring and try to ignore it? Maybe that's not how it works, but from what I understand, it's very much possible, if not likely.

Then the silt. According to Wikipedia:

About 100 million tons of sediment are trapped behind the dam annually, equal to about 30,000 dump truck loads daily.

Most of that silt is dropping where the Colorado dies, not at the dam, otherwise I don't think it would have ever been built. I've read anecdotal stuff online from folks who seem surprised and concerned by how shallow things are getting in the north end where the most build up is. Yeah, the lake is low, it's shallower, but not like that. It's getting shallower because it's getting 30,000 dump trucks of dirt dropped in and settled down every day. I've hiked some relatively minor side canyons like Cottonwood Gulch that had lake sediment piles as tall as a house with boater trash embedded 10 feet deep, only visible because the stream had been cutting away at the pile while the lake was low.
 
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#10

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#12
I would rather see efforts focused on preserving and protecting other areas that are threatened. Too many people would be effected by draining Powell, and would the land ever really return to what it once was? I say leave it and work on saving other areas. Besides boating on Powell is really fun. :)
 
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#13
and would the land ever really return to what it once was?
Yes it would. Mother Nature is amazing like that. Tear it down.
 

Laura

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#14
Yes it would. Mother Nature is amazing like that. Tear it down.
I'm not sure it would-there's already been a lot of silt deposited in the canyon. Though I'd bet that the canyon would restore itself in other ways, even if it wouldn't return to what it once was.

While we're tearing down Glen Canyon dam, let's tear down Hetch-Hetchy as well!
 
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#15
Every flash flood would continue to rid the canyon of silt. Might not be on our lifetime, but over time it would restore itself. Big picture, we are just a blip, and so is that dam.
 

Nick

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Thread starter #16
Very true. The expected lifespan of the dam is only 250-700 years, depending on who you ask. So it's not a matter of if, but when. Why let the silt get even thicker? It's pretty amazing how quick the canyons actually recover. All of these places were totally submerged in the summer of 2012, but look at them now...











 
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#17
just thinking about packrafting through Glen Canyon and all the side canyon options...gives me chills.
 

Nick

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Thread starter #18
Besides boating on Powell is really fun. :)
I can't argue with that. I'd still get rid of it in a heartbeat if I could, but so long as it's there, it is really fun to boat camp on. I could probably spend the rest of my life doing that and be pretty happy. I really wish they'd manage it better though, maybe more like a National Park and less like a National do-whatever-the-hell-you-want Recreation Area. It's ridiculous how much abuse the NPS allows. Stuff that's totally illegal already, they just don't enforce a thing. Fireworks, litter, human waste, graffiti, drilling into the rock for anchors and so on.

I guess when Glen Canyon does come back, most of the abuse will be 300-500 feet up on the walls. Oh, and a ridiculous amount of trash and debris in the bottom. You'd be finding cameras, sunglasses, anchors, fishing poles, etc. etc. for decades.
 
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#19
...and the archaeology, freshly rinsed from a long bath.
 

Nick

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Thread starter #20
I added a poll to this thread. Thought it'd be fun to see the results from a group like this.
 

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