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1999 Friends of Lake Powell, Inc.
www.lakepowell.org
P.O. Box 7007
Page, AZ 86040 USA
(928) 645-2741  Fax: 928-353-2227

OPENING STATEMENT OF HON. BEN NIGHTHORSE CAMPBELL
A SENATOR IN CONGRESS
FROM THE STATE OF COLORADO

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And I remember those days very well in which we fought many a battle that is fought in the so-called debate over the new West versus the old West. And I certainly thank you for holding this very important hearing and allowing me the opportunity to make a brief comment on the Sierra Club's proposal to drain Lake Powell.

We are in a series of votes over on the Senate side now, so I won't stay long. But I did talk to several other Western Senators before I came over to kind of get their ideas about how they felt. And I'm sure you can imagine how many of them felt.

You, I am sure, are going to have many witnesses today, who will have much more expertise and knowledge from a technical standpoint than I have when they speak about this water project. Some of them will be able to tell you how many cubic feet of water is stored, how much goes to different States and how important it is to a great many Western people.

Some will be able to tell you specifically how many kilowatts of power are generated every day and the demand on power in the Los Angeles basin and the other places where it supplys. And certainly we all know that it has provided a reasonable quality of life for the people that get that rather inexpensive power.

Well, I am certainly not here to try to speak from a technical standpoint. But I am here, I think, to voice the opinions of millions of westerners, some who sit on this Committee, in proclaiming it to be a certifiable nut idea.

It is true that Lake Powell, when it was built, forever changed an incredibly beautiful place. But so did building New York City on Long Island. And we simply can't go back in time and undo all of the projects that have been built.

Now, in fact, I think it would just plain be silly to even contemplate it, but I don't mean that to disparage the remarks that may come later in favor of it. It is just my personal opinion.

When I first heard about it, in fact, I thought it was a joke, as many westerners did when we read it in the paper. But then, on the other hand, after I realized the Sierra Club was supporting it, I knew they were serious because I know that it was no joke when they reduced the timber industry's ability to harvest resources. And, in fact, in the name of environmental purism, they have made great strides in reducing most of our land-based industries while making us more dependent on foreign resources, particularly energy.

And if there is anybody on that panel that doesn't know what that war in Kuwait was about, let me enlighten them. It was about energy. There is no question about it.

There are just too many good reasons to keep that lake and not enough to destroy it. The Glen Canyon Lake has produced tens of thousands of jobs, first of all, not only in construction, but in the current maintenance of it, too, and the recreational services it provides in energy and water-related activities.

It has also produced a great deal of clean energy. To my understanding, the Sierra Club is very concerned about global warming. It factors no contribution, to my knowledge, of global warming, and no air pollution, either one, as there is coming from the eastern coal-fired plants or the Northern coal-fired plants. Therefore, it reduces demand for strip money to get the coal, which they also claim they dislike.

Now, I haven't seen a nuclear project that produces power that they support. I haven't seen a coal-fired project that they support. And there is no question in my mind that, if we did something as crazy as this sounds to me, the cost of power would skyrocket.

It also provides an awful lot of water for all of our folks that live out in our area. I come from the Four Corners area, as you know, Mr. Chairman. And you also know coming from our neighboring State of Utah in the West, we store 85 to 90 percent of our yearly water needs, unlike here in the East where it rains so much that they only have to store about 15 percent of the water needs.

But your State, mine, as well as Arizona, Nevada, and Southern California simply won't have available options if we cutoff both the power and the water, or reduce both the power and water, except one, and that is they will be moving to your State and mine.

So we end up, I think, if we follow the Sierra Club's line of thinking to tear down that dam and drain the lake, we would put another set of circumstances in place that is going to make it difficult when you have a huge inward migration into the mountain States, which currently does have a lot of water.

I live down near the cliff dwellings, as you know, Mr. Chairman, Mesa Verde it's called. And most historians will tell you that the reason they moved down river a thousand years ago wasn't from massive social upheaval. It was simply because they droughted out. They had no way of storing water when they went through years of drought, and they had to leave.

The Sierra Club also, I think, betrays a basic underlying elitism. It wants to drain Lake Powell so the spectacular Glen Canyon is once again accessible, as I understand it. But who would it be accessible to, a few thousand hikers that can go in there. Certainly they wouldn't support wheelchairs going in there. They never have for our wilderness areas. And it would certainly cutoff the elderly, the people that can visit it by boat, the thousands of recreational tourists that go there now.

I think also the consequences of the Grand Canyon also need to be measured. Without flood control provided by the dam, the Grand Canyon would be subject to dangerous torrential flash floods much of the year. Year-round rafting and hiking would simply be out of the question. Access to the canyon would be reduced. And the risks associated with flooding would also be increased. And only the wealthiest of Americans would be able to appreciate that area.

As you know, there are many tragedies in those canyons and during flood season. In fact, just recently, several hikers were killed in a flash flood. Imagine what the Colorado would do to all communities downstream during raging spring floods that have been built since the canyon was damned and the flood waters have been controlled. To simply tear that down and release torrential floods of water downstream to small communities all the way down to the ocean, I think, is absolutely nonsense.

I also would like to just say in closing, Mr. Chairman, that, if this were to go forward, and I have a hunch it is going nowhere, but if it were to go forward, what would be the next project? Would it be Hoover Dam or any of the dams in the West, all the dams in the West? Would we then talk about maybe returning the Utah project and the Arizona project back to its former natural environment? Would we talk about tearing down Hetch Hetchy, there was kind of a joke made about that a few years ago, which supplies water and power to the city of San Francisco.

This project, when people hear all the testimony for and against, I would hope that they will realize it is something absolutely ridiculous to contemplate. With that, I thank you, Mr. Chairman.

For more information contact. friends@lakepowell.org