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H.RES. 380
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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


Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate the opportunity to appear today on behalf of the Colorado River Energy Distributors Association.

Testimony from several of today's witnesses include references to the hydropower produced at Glen Canyon Dam and the value of that hydropower. CREDA, the organization I represent, represents the more than 100 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, when we are talking about draining Lake Powell we get rather interested.

Over the past several months I have heard a wide-range of opinion as to the impact draining the lake would have on the generation of electricity. 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 utilities, government organizations, and Native American utilities. Ultimately, millions of families, farms, and businesses depend upon this clean, relatively economical source of energy.

Appearing today as the representative or a representative of the local utilities and electric co-ops, we are responsible for making sure the lights stay on. I would like to focus primarily on the practical implications of removing Glen Canyon Dam as a hydropower resource.

First, I have heard with some amusement the claims 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 Dam plays in the overall scheme of power supply 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 a critical opportunity to generate more or less electricity as demand changes from hour to hour. This 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.

An excellent example of this very fact occurred last summer, during the widespread and widely publicized power outages. Glen Canyon Dam was one of the more critical tools that 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.

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 dams for increased load following would be unacceptable to the same 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. And for those who believe that 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, and would remind them that short-term planning in the electricity business is measured in decades.

Mr. Chairman, many witnesses have told you the ramifications of this proposal for meeting the current 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. Customers throughout the Colorado River Basin spend more than $100 million per year—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. Those studies have consumed more than a decade of time and more than $100 million of electric ratepayers' money. This effort, whether one agrees with the outcome or not, represents one of the most significant environmental programs in the history of this Nation. The draining of Lake Powell would render that effort moot.

In short, the benefits of Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell are tremendous and far-reaching. At the same time, we have gone to extraordinary lengths to make these facilities as compatible as possible with the natural and environmental values they impact. To seriously consider sacrificing all of those benefits, imposing so much cost on millions of consumers, and impeding our ability to meet the electric needs of a rapidly growing region, in order to revisit a decision made more than 30 years ago, seems more than a bit absurd.

Surely, we have more pressing items on our environmental ''to do'' list than draining Lake Powell. Thank you.

For more information contact. friends@lakepowell.org