Home
What's New?
Articles
Newsletter
History
H.RES. 380
Testimony
Help Us!
Links
Quotable
Comments

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

OPENING STATEMENT OF RITA PEARSON
DIRECTOR, ARIZONA DEPARTMENT OF WATER RESOURCES

Good morning, Chairman Hansen and members of the joint Subcommittees. My name is Rita Pearson, and I am the Director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak on behalf of the State of Arizona. My testimony today will focus on Arizona's primary concerns with the draining of Lake Powell, a proposal which we adamantly oppose. I've submitted written testimony that provides additional details. And I will refer to it periodically during my testimony.

I would also like to acknowledge the submission of testimony from Governor Jane Hull, Arizona's Governor, on behalf of the State of Arizona as well.

Draining Lake Powell cannot be seriously considered for many reasons. But the principal reason is because life as we know it here in the West would be impossible without Lake Powell Reservoir. It is one of the keystone facilities used in managing the Colorado River basin system and the hydroelectric power resources generated from it.

Draining Lake Powell would have serious impacts on water supplies in the lower basin States, Arizona, California, and Nevada, as well as creating environmental and economic hardships, specifically in the State of Arizona.

As has been mentioned a number of times this morning, Lake Powell can store 25 million acre feet or more of Colorado River water. That's 42 percent of the storage capacity of the entire Colorado River system.

Lake Powell is the upper basin's insurance policy, because with it, the upper basin cannot guarantee annual deliveries to the lower basin of 7 1/2 million acre feet pursuant to the 1922 Interstate Compact.

The Colorado River is one of the most erratically flowing rivers in the United States. It has flows as high as 23 million acre feet in 1 year and as low as 5 million acre feet in another.

With my testimony today, I submitted a chart which shows annual inflows into the Colorado River above Glen Canyon Dam. You will see that it's a roller coaster. No 2 years are alike. In fact, talking about averages as we have heard today from the Sierra Club is absolutely meaningless without a reservoir system. And because of this, if the storage capabilities of Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell are eliminated, future Colorado water supplies in the lower basin States will be critically jeopardized. It will be a water resource feast or famine.

Seventy percent of the natural inflows flowing into Lake Powell occur during the months of May, June, and July. The only way we can capture the runoff is through reservoir storage. Without Lake Powell, the Bureau of Reclamation's modeling indicates that shortages in the lower basin could occur as early as the year 2006, almost 20 years earlier than had been projected. And I note, we are projecting shortages today without the elimination of Lake Powell. But eliminating that storage capacity reduces supplies and makes shortage a possibility much sooner.

Arizona is particularly vulnerable to shortage. As a result of the 1968 Colorado River Basin Project Act, the water supply through the central Arizona project into central and southern Arizona is the lowest priority water in the lower basin.

During such a shortage, as a result of Lake Powell drainage, the CAP could see diversions reduced to zero as early as 2051. Without Lake Powell, as I mentioned, as early as 2006, the probability of shortage jumps to 25 percent or once in every 4 years. By 2051, shortages could occur one-third of the time.

We have noted that 600,000 acre feet of evaporative storage disappears every year from Lake Powell. That is a cost—that's the insurance premium that we buy in order to guarantee 27 million acre feet of storage. That is a very important storage capacity for the lower basin system.

To give you an idea of how important the CAP is to Arizona, it provides water to Maricopa, Pinal, and Pima Counties where 3 1/2 million acre people live. More than 2.4 million people live in Maricopa County alone, which is the home to Phoenix, Arizona, the sixth largest city in the United States.

Currently, the majority of our water is delivered to agriculture, but with each passing year, more and more of that water is delivered to cities, cities that do not have the flexibility of retiring ag. land. There is an ongoing demand that does not cease regardless of drought conditions.

I would also point out, the Southern Nevada Water Authority would be greatly jeopardized as well. Their intake pump is set at 7.3 million acre feet of storage in Lake Mead. If all of the demand is drawn off of Lake Mead, we would have serious shortages in both Southern California and Southern Nevada.

The drought referred to earlier between 1986 and 1993 took 20 million acre feet of storage out of the system. If that was borne solely by Lake Mead, Nevada's intake pumps would have been left high and dry. Twenty million people are served by supplies in the lower basin by water from the Colorado River.

In addition to drainage problems from Lake Powell, that would also cause problems from Lake Mead. Annual storage in Lake Mead would be reduced as well. And you would have to manage the system either for a drought condition or for a flood condition. In other words, if you're managing for a drought, you have to maximize the storage in Lake Mead. But when the flood hits, you have nowhere to put the water. It goes down streams. And downstream communities like Yuma, Bull Head City, Lake Havasu City would be greatly jeopardized.

In addition to that, you have more than 30 years of sediment trapped behind Glen Canyon Dam. The estimates are that between 65,000 and 100,000 cubic yards of sediment are annually gathered behind Glen Canyon Dam.

When Lake Powell dries out, the sediment will evaporate. It will move into the air. We will have air quality problems throughout the West as well as water quality problems from the selenium and heavy metals in the sediment.

Three years ago, the lower basin States entered into a multistate State habitat conservation plan. That plan is designed to protect over 100 plant and wildlife species dependent upon the lower Colorado.

Our ability to protect those species is directly dependent upon the water supply. If we lose Lake Powell, all of our flexibility in the system is managed off of Lake Mead. We will be unable to protect those species as we have planned to in joint agreements with the Interior Department, environmental groups, and Indian tribes as well. Mr. Chairman, I see I am out of time. I have a bit more testimony, but I would be happy to stop.

Mr. HANSEN. How much time do you need?

Ms. PEARSON. Probably another 2 minutes.

Mr. HANSEN. I'll give you an additional 2 minutes.

Ms. PEARSON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Let me briefly touch upon the visitation at the Glen Canyon recreational area, including Lake Powell. We've talked about 3 million people a year visiting there. The canyon is now open in a way it never was before. As has been talked about by the previous panel, it has the second largest number of overnight stays of any park in the national system. Forty-two thousand people annually float the river. Seventy thousand now visit Rainbow Bridge, a national monument that was not readily accessible because it was 6 miles into very difficult territory.

The annual economic impact to the tiny Arizona communities like Marble Canyon and Vermillion Cliffs that are associated with the Lees Ferry fishery are estimated to be $5 million alone. Draining Lake Powell would shut down the blue ribbon trout fishery known as Lees Ferry. And 8,000 people reside in Page, Arizona, where tourism and the Navajo Generating Station are the principal types of employment there.

Mr. Chairman, I could go on and on about the impacts of draining Lake Powell. But let me first and finally point out that there is an old saying that they use in the West, that water is just around the corner. It is just over the next hill. That is no longer the case in the West. We have identified and quantified all of the available supplies of water. We are facing shortages today without the draining of Lake Powell. To exacerbate it would be irresponsible. I would like to suggest that we use history as a guidepost, not a hitching post. Thank you.

Mr. HANSEN. How much time do you need?

Ms. PEARSON. Probably another 2 minutes.

Mr. HANSEN. I'll give you an additional 2 minutes.

Ms. PEARSON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Let me briefly touch upon the visitation at the Glen Canyon recreational area, including Lake Powell. We've talked about 3 million people a year visiting there. The canyon is now open in a way it never was before. As has been talked about by the previous panel, it has the second largest number of overnight stays of any park in the national system. Forty-two thousand people annually float the river. Seventy thousand now visit Rainbow Bridge, a national monument that was not readily accessible because it was 6 miles into very difficult territory.

The annual economic impact to the tiny Arizona communities like Marble Canyon and Vermillion Cliffs that are associated with the Lees Ferry fishery are estimated to be $5 million alone. Draining Lake Powell would shut down the blue ribbon trout fishery known as Lees Ferry. And 8,000 people reside in Page, Arizona, where tourism and the Navajo Generating Station are the principal types of employment there.

Mr. Chairman, I could go on and on about the impacts of draining Lake Powell. But let me first and finally point out that there is an old saying that they use in the West, that water is just around the corner. It is just over the next hill. That is no longer the case in the West. We have identified and quantified all of the available supplies of water. We are facing shortages today without the draining of Lake Powell. To exacerbate it would be irresponsible. I would like to suggest that we use history as a guidepost, not a hitching post. Thank you.

For more information contact. friends@lakepowell.org