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H.RES. 380
Help Us!

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 and members of the Subcommittees. I would ask the Chair's indulgence. Given the late time that I had for notice of this hearing, I wasn't able to prepare written testimony, and I would request to be able to do so after the hearing.

The purpose of my testimony today, Mr. Chairman, is to help express from an upper Colorado River basin perspective our grave concerns as to the effects of draining Lake Powell. To fully appreciate these concerns, Members of Congress should understand that this proposal is not just about one dam. Glen Canyon Dam was built and is operated as a key component of a complex framework of laws passed by Congress known as the law of the river.

These laws were born out of the necessity to provide secure water supplies. They are the product of two interstate Compacts, a U.S. Supreme Court decree, and a treaty with Mexico allocating the river's water.

They reflect the fact that for over a hundred years, the financial strength and national authority of the U.S. Congress has been absolutely necessary to avoid interstate disputes and to secure economic stability for the Colorado River basin.

Floods in the lower Colorado River in the first years of this century caused extensive damage and created the Salton Sea, bringing urgency to the desires of California irrigators for an all-American canal and a dam that would regulate the river. The California interests sought financial support for these projects from Congress.

The upper basin States were wary that the lower basin would develop at the expense of the upper basin, and successfully blocked these efforts in Congress. The upper and lower basins resolved their differences in 1922 when they signed the Colorado River Basin Compact.

The Compact divides the river's water between the basins and also sets a requirement that the upper basin not deplete the flow of the river below 75 million acre feet over any 10-year period.

Because of the erratic nature of the river (you heard the testimony on that previously) from year to year, the negotiators of the Compact in 1922 knew that the upper basin could not meet its burden without the comprehensive development throughout the basin of storage reservoirs.

The Boulder Canyon Project Act of 1928, by which Congress ratified the Compact, also directed the Secretary of Interior to develop a report to Congress, ''formulating a comprehensive scheme of control in the improvement and utilization of the waters of the Colorado water and its tributaries.''

The depression and World War II intervened, but in 1946, the Bureau of Reclamation completed its report. The Upper Basin Compact of 1948 allowed for Congress to implement that plan.

In the 1956 Colorado River Basin Project Act, Congress authorized the construction of so-called holdover reservoirs which would assure that the upper basin could meet its compact obligations. Lake Powell is the cornerstone of that system, supported by units at Flaming Gorge, Aspinall, and Navajo.

In the 1968 Colorado River Basin Project Act, Congress provided for the comprehensive operation of Lake Powell and the major facilities in conjunction with Lake Mead. This regulatory framework was implemented in the coordinating operating criteria by the Secretary of the Interior in 1970.

Without the ability to properly regulate river flow as provided by these facilities, Colorado and other upper basin States would face the prospect of a Compact call, which would entail the massive curtailment of water use by millions of people.

Throughout the development of this series of laws, Congress has also worked closely with the basin States and has explicitly recognized and affirmed the water allocations established under the law of the river.

In the Grand Canyon Protection Act of 1992, Congress directed that operations of the power plant in Glen Canyon Dam take into account downstream impacts. Those operations were the result of a $100 million environmental impact study that was alluded to earlier.

But that law also affirmed the critical role Lake Powell plays in meeting interstate water allocation needs. The Act makes operations for downstream purposes subject to the dam's primary water allocation function.

The Senate Energy Committee Report describes Lake Powell as follows: ''Glen Canyon Dam is the keystone of the Colorado River Storage Project, CRSP, and CRSP is the central vehicle for implementation of the congressionally approved Colorado River Compact. The Compact is in turn the basis for allocation of Colorado River water among the seven Colorado River Basin States.''

By storing water in the upper reservoirs at Flaming Gorge, Aspinall, and Navajo, regulating the water through Lake Powell, and delivering the water to Lake Mead, the Bureau of Reclamation has the facilities and operational flexibility to meet the needs first envisioned over 100 years ago. These facilities ensure a secure water supply for over 20 million people, and a hydroelectric and recreational resource.

As illustrated by the Grand Canyon Protection Act, the Bureau also has the ability to manage water to meet environmental goals. For example, the upper basin States, Bureau of Reclamation, Fish and Wildlife Service, and others have developed a recovery plan for four endangered fish species in the Colorado River Basin.

The plan is designed to recover these endangered species while allowing the upper basin States to fully develop our compact shares. Under this plan, the operation of these upper basin storage units has been changed to more closely approximate the natural hydrograph. Without Lake Powell, this reregulating flexibility would not be possible.

Other aspects of this recovery plan, including habitat acquisition, fish ladders, and stocking programs will need to be funded through a combination of hydropower revenues, congressional appropriations, and State and local funds. We need the help of Congress now more than ever to meet these national priorities of Colorado River management.

By directing the draining of Lake Powell, Congress would completely reverse its field from a direction in which it has steadily engaged for nearly 100 years. We believe that any proposal to drain the lake should take these concerns into consideration. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

For more information contact. friends@lakepowell.org