Deseret Morning News, Thursday, August 18, 2005

Article paints inaccurate picture of Lake Powell

By Ray Grass
Deseret Morning News

What a trip Wade Graham, trustee of the Glen Canyon Institute, wrote about for the Los Angeles Times on his trip and predictions on Lake Powell. The story was eventually picked up by several papers around the country, including the Deseret Morning News.

I mean, expecting to see a "wide, placid reservoir," but instead finding "6-foot-high standing waves" that flipped his boat . . . barely able to pull himself from water near Fort Moqui, he found: "Under a ledge we saw ancient petroglyphs, and nearby, chanced on this inscription: 'J W Powell 1872.' "

Wow, a John Wesley Powell typo. Now that's a find. Powell passed this site for the second and last time in 1871. Oops. Also, no one familiar with that section of the lake, not even the former National Park archeologist at the lake, is aware of a Powell inscription anywhere near Fort Moqui.

Also, several rafting companies I checked with, which pass that section daily, never saw anything close to 6-foot waves. The last big waves are 26 miles up the Colorado at Imperial Rapid. But then, flipping a boat in flat water doesn't make for a good story.

But these weren't the only problems. The sole purpose of the Glen Canyon Institute is to see Lake Powell drained. And, the obvious intent of Graham's story was to paint the bleakest, blackest picture possible of Lake Powell.

Most of the information he used was from a report that appeared in the Journal of Climatic Change, "Assessing Implications of Operating the Colorado River Water Resource," although he never directly gives credit to the article.

Even then he chose to twist facts. Many times the report lists current Upper Basin demand at 4.1 million acre-feet. Graham bumped it up to 4.2.

The report refers to demand increasing from 4.1 MAF to 5.4 MAF by 2060, or roughly six decades. Graham dropped it down to "a few decades," suggesting more immediate doom.

He cites the report as predicting "14 percent to 18 percent" less stream flow, but neglects to add the prediction is over the next 100 years, again suggesting more immediate doom.

Graham wrote it took 18 years, including two 100-year high runoffs, to initially fill Lake Powell, trying to show how difficult it was to fill. It took 17 years to fill, and the two 100-year runoffs came after it filled. It officially filled in 1980, and the two record years were 1983 and 1984. Easy facts to check.

His most ridiculous assertion, however, is that the "drought didn't drain Lake Powell. It was rising demand." But then he contradicts himself, claiming: "During the drought, downstream users continued to take their business-as-usual allotment, draining the piggy bank."

What you will not see Graham write about is the institute's failed attempt to profit from the very lake it hates so much. The institute attempted to run a tour-boat business without the proper permit, charging customers hundreds of dollars to take them into uncovered sites on the lake by boat. The National Park Service sent the institute a "cease and desist" letter earlier this year.

The institute then tried to circumvent the system, claiming its tours would actually be groups of volunteers, each paying GCI $200, for the opportunity to clean up the sites. The problem, according to the NPS, is it wanted to repeatedly go into the same sites.

Hypocritical? I would say so.

Graham distorted facts in this story to paint a picture of a lake that is dry, dangerous, dirty and "will never be full again."

Having visited the lake two weeks ago, I can personally attest, without bias, Lake Powell is still the "Jewel of the Colorado," that there is still more than 170 miles of "green lake shimmering incongruously in the baking red desert" Graham couldn't find and that those people who most appreciated the lake were, in fact, enjoying themselves.


Friend of Lake Powell