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

Statement of
Joe Hunter

Executive Director,
Colorado River Energy Distributors Association

before the

House Subcommittees on Water and Power
and National Parks & Public Lands

September 23, 1997

Mr. Chairman and members of the Subcommittees, I sincerely appreciate the opportunity to appear today on behalf of the Colorado River Energy Distributors Association (CREDA).

Testimony from several of today's witnesses includes references to the hydropower produced at Glen Canyon Darn - and the value of that hydropower. CREDA represents the more than one hundred nonprofit public utilities and rural electric cooperatives who purchase that power from the United States and distribute it to consumers throughout the Colorado River Basin. Clearly, we have a substantial interest, on behalf of those consumers, in issues related to Glen Canyon Dam. For reasons that should be obvious, when the issue is a proposal to drain Lake Powell, and thus eliminate Glen Canyon Dam as a source of electricity for those consumers, we become extremely concerned.

Over the past several months, and again today, I have read and heard a wide range of opinion and analysis as to the impact draining Lake Powell would have on the generation of electricity in the western United States. The basic facts are well documented: Glen Canyon Dam is capable of generating more than 1,300 megawatts of hydropower each year. That electricity is sold by the United States at cost-based rates to nonprofit public entities, government organizations and Native American tribes. Ultimately, millions of families, farms and businesses from California to Colorado, from Wyoming to Arizona depend upon this clean, relatively economical source of energy.

Of particular interest to the Congress and to taxpayers in every state is the fact that the revenues from the sale of Glen Canyon Dam hydropower are the primary source of repayment for well over $1 billion in federal investment in water supply facilities in the Upper Colorado River Basin.

These are impressive numbers, and I can certainly provide the subcommittees with more like them. However, appearing as a representative of the local utilities and electric cooperatives who are responsible for making sure the lights stay on, I think it would be more helpful for me to focus on the practical implications of removing Glen Canyon Dam as a hydropower resource.

I have read and heard with amusement the claims of some that the generation that would be lost at Glen Canyon Dam could be offset through conservation. Such claims demonstrate a remarkable lack of understanding of the role Glen Canyon Darn plays in the overall scheme of power supply and reliability in the West. The importance of hydropower generation goes far beyond the raw number of megawatts it provides. Unlike most conventional generation sources, hydropower is variable - it provides the critical opportunity to generate more or less electricity as demand changes from hour to hour. This peaking, or load following, potential is not something that can be offset through conservation. While conservation can be an effective tool for reducing the need for base load generation, it does nothing to reduce the need for peaking resources such as Glen Canyon Dam. If power consumption in the West were cut in half tomorrow, we would still have the same need to adjust generation to meet varying load requirements.

Energy conservation is a valuable tool. It is not, however, a tool that could replace Glen Canyon Dam. Some might point out, correctly, that the load following operations of Glen Canyon Dam have been dramatically restricted in recent years in response to significant concerns about the impacts of fluctuating flows in the Grand Canyon. That is true; however, even with these restrictions, the dam does provide valuable load following. More importantly, from a reliability and security standpoint, the capability of the dam to provide almost instant resource availability in emergencies is not diminished by the current restrictions. To put it simply, Glen Canyon Dam is very strategically located in the power supply system. As a separation point between northern and southern transmission systems, the dam is very well situated to provide critical resources in the event of a regional power outage.

An excellent example of this occurred during last summers' widespread outages, when Glen Canyon Dam was available to help restore service to much of Arizona and Southern California. Even the harshest critics of historic dam operations have long agreed that, if some type of system failure threatens power supply, Glen Canyon Dam should be available to pick up the slack, as it was last summer.

Could this capability be replaced? I suppose it could. Absent Glen Canyon Dam power generation, greater dependence could be placed on other existing hydropower facilities. Each of those dams, however, has its own set of environmental concerns, and I suspect that the potential consequences of using other darns for increased load following would be unacceptable to many of the interests who are today advocating the draining of Lake Powell.

The other potential alternatives to Glen Canyon Dam are technologies that are either immature or significantly more costly. Currently, Congress is engaged in a debate over how to move from a regulated utility industry to a competitive market where retail customers can choose their electric supplier. The goal of this debate is to reduce electricity costs for all classes of customers in all regions of the country. In this economic climate, it does not make sense to pursue a policy that would eliminate a viable, economic generating resource and force utilities to seek or develop more costly alternatives.

And for those who believe there is currently an abundance of generation available in the Western states, I would suggest they take a look at the projected growth rates in areas today served by Glen Canyon Dam hydropower, and remind them that short-term planning in the electricity business is measured in decades.

Mr. Chairman, you and your colleagues are being barraged today with facts and figures about Glen Canyon Dam, and that information is important. However, I would respectfully suggest that the proposed draining of Lake Powell be put in a more general perspective. Witnesses have told you of the ramifications of this proposal for meeting the cur-rent and future water needs of an entire region. You have heard of the value of Lake Powell itself as a magnificent recreation and tourism resource. Consumers throughout the Colorado River Basin send more than $100 million per year to the United States Treasury for the privilege of using the clean, renewable and economical electricity generated with the water that is stored in Lake Powell. Under any scenario, the loss of that power resource would have far-reaching impacts on the electric bills of families, ranchers and small businesses.

Further, the entities represented at this hearing, along with many others, have just completed a difficult process of environmental study, cooperation and compromise regarding the operation of Glen Canyon Dam that has consumed more than a decade of time and more than $ 100 million of electric ratepayers' money. The Record of Decision, signed in late 1996 was, essentially, supported by all the parties to the multi-year negotiations. This effort, whether one agrees with the outcome or not, represents one of the most significant environmental programs in the history of the nation. Codified by Congress in 1992, the Glen Canyon environmental studies program is today held up by many as a unique example of reconciling an existing man-made facility with the environment.

The draining of Lake Powell would render all of that effort moot.

In short, the benefits of Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell are tremendous and far-reaching. The lives of millions are better today than they would have been without these resources. At the same time, we have gone to extraordinary and historic lengths to make these facilities as compatible as possible with the natural and environmental values they impact. And let us not overlook the fact that the taxpayers are depending upon the revenues from Glen Canyon Dam power generation to repay more than a billion dollars they have invested in water and power infrastructure.

To seriously consider sacrificing all these benefits, imposing so much cost on millions of consumers and impeding our capacity to meet the electric needs of a rapidly growing region in order to revisit a decision made more than thirty years ago seems more dm a little absurd. Surely, we as a nation have more pressing items on our environmental "to do" list than draining Lake Powell for the benefit of a select few.

For more information contact. friends@lakepowell.org