The Honorable John Shadegg
United States House of Representatives
430 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Thank you for
giving me the opportunity to express my views on the draining of Lake Powell. I regret that I am unable to attend the hearing in person but I am confident that the Arizona perspective will be more than adequately
represented by you and Rita Pearson, the Director of Arizona's Department of Water Resources.
In short, I believe the idea of draining Lake Powell is an ill-considered and harmful proposition that would negatively
impact the millions of people who live in the 7 states of the Colorado River Basin. The effects of such an action would be felt throughout Arizona, as well as region wide. Draining the lake would have extensive impacts,
not all of which are readily apparent or easily enumerated. However, some are quite obvious and I would like to mention just a few of those.
- Lake Powell is a key component in the management and distribution of Colorado River water. The 1922 Colorado River Compact between the upper and lower basin states contains an express provision for the upper
basin states to provide water from the upper basin to satisfy the water rights of the lower basin states. Should Lake Powell be drained, the upper basin states would have to find another way to satisfy that
provision. Significant storage facilities would likely be required. Does the Sierra Club really want us to substitute one reservoir for another?
- Eliminating the 25 million acre feet of storage that Lake Powell provides would have very serious. consequences for the lower basin states in terms of flood control and water supply management. Without storage
in the lake, a much larger floodplain would be needed along the lower Colorado. Loss of Lake Powell's storage capacity also would substantially increase the risk of water shortages on the Colorado River
-shortages that would severely impact the economic well-being of nearly 38 million people living in the lower basin states.
- As many of you know, in times of water shortage, Arizona's Central Arizona Project is the most junior entity -- CAP's water gets shut off before anyone else's. That harms urban, industrial, agricultural, and
Indian users throughout Arizona.
- Many of the already completed Indian water settlements in Arizona depend on CAP allocations. Failure to deliver this settlement water could result in hardship for the tribes and financial penalties for the
United States government. In addition, should the availability and reliability of the CAP be called into question, Indian tribes might no longer be willing to accept CAP water in future settlements.
- Draining Lake Powell would eliminate the water supply for the Navajo Generating Station at Page, Arizona. NGS currently draws approximately 27,000 acre feet from the lake. The water is used to produce steam to
run the generating turbines, the plant cooling system, and to operate the scrubbers. If NGS were to shut down for lack of adequate water, the economic impact on the region, including the Navajo Nation, could be
devastating. Keep in mind that not only does NGS provide power to run the CAP pumps, revenue from the sale of excess CAP capacity provides up to 2 1 % of the CAP repayment stream. If that revenue stream
disappears, the CAP property tax rates in Pinal, Pima and Maricopa counties could easily double.
In sum, the arguments against draining Lake Powell far outweigh any habitat restoration that might be gained. I say "might" for two reasons. One, there is serious doubt that the area could be restored to
its original condition and two, reclaiming lost, most likely marginal quality habitat, would be at the expense of newly created and thriving downstream habitat in the Grand Canyon. Even yesterday's New York Times
article ended with a quote questioning such a balancing: "Why choose a humpback chub over an eagle?"
Thank you to subcommittee chairmen Doolittle and Hansen for holding this important hearing and allowing me
a moment to express my views. With the Committee's permission, I would like to submit more extensive comments for the record.
United States Senator