The following letter represents the Clinton Administration's stance on the proposal to drain Lake Powell.
Ms. Karren Little
Dear Ms. Little:President Clinton has asked me to respond to your letter regarding your concern over the proposal to drain Lake Powell.
The idea recently proposed by the Sierra Club and the Glen Canyon Institute to drain Lake Powell is not considered feasible by the Secretary of the Interior and the Bureau of Reclamation because too many of the benefits associated with Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell would be lost. There have been some negative environmental impacts associated with Glen Canyon Dam, which is why we undertook a comprehensive environmental studies program in the canyon, resulting in an environmental impact statement in March 1995. The EIS created changes in how we operate the dam to better balance all the needs from Lake Powell including: the environment, water, recreation, cultural resources and power.
If the lake were drained, it would likely take centuries for the walls and floor of Glen Canyon to return to their natural color and state. The entire ecosystem of the Grand Canyon would likely change with the loss of the current food base, and non-native predator fish from Lake Mead could be a major concern to native endangered fish species in. the Grand Canyon. A new ecosystem had developed as a result of the dam, and the lake, as you recognized, provides a "new beauty" in Glen Canyon.
The benefits provided by Glen Canyon Dam are numerous and vitally important to life in the western United States. The dam stores over 26 million acre-feet of water which is critical to the survival of cities, industries, and agriculture throughout the West and Mexico. Over 20 million people depend on the water stored behind Glen Canyon Dam to sustain life. The dam also provides control from floods, and produces over 5000 mega-watt hours of hydroelectric power, which is enough electricity to support about 400,000 people per year. In addition, this form of power is non-polluting, and a clean, renewable source of energy that reduces our dependence on coal and oil.
As you pointed out, the recreational value offered by Lake Powell is another major benefit associated with the dam that is important to visitors from all over the world and to the city of Page, Arizona. Lake Powell is the second largest reservoir in North America, providing millions of visitors each year with wonderful recreational opportunities which sustains the economy of Page. We are glad that you are among the visitors that have taken advantage of this area's recreational value and we hope you continue to enjoy all that this area has to offer.
We appreciate your support and concern for Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell. If you have any questions or would like additional information, you can contact either Bruce Moore at (801) 524-3702 or Lisa Iams at (801) 524-3673.
Charles A. Calhoun