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

 

Panel #4 Q&A


Our last panel is Robert Elliot, Arizona Raft Adventurers; Joseph Hunter, Executive Director of Colorado River Energy Distribution Association, CREDA, and David Wegner, Ecosystems Management International.
So we're grateful for you folks for being here. We'll get you all labeled here so we know who you are.
Mr. Elliott, we will start with you and then Mr. Hunter and, Mr. Wegner, you can be the cleanup batter here.
Mr. ELLIOTT. Mr. Chairman, distinguished members of the Committee——
Mr. HANSEN. You know the rules. We would appreciate it if you could stay within your time.
Mr. Elliott, we turn to you, sir.
STATEMENT OF ROBERT ELLIOTT, AMERICA OUTDOORS AND ARIZONA RAFT ADVENTURES
Mr. ELLIOTT. Mr. Chairman and illustrious members of the Subcommittees, thank you kindly for inviting me to testify today.
My name is Rob Elliott. I represent America Outdoors, a national trade association comprised of 600 small businesses which outfit back country trips for the public on lands managed by government agencies across the Nation. I am also the President of Arizona Raft Adventures, a river runner in the Grand Canyon.
Knowing what we know today, and on balance with all the myriad considerations, I am adamantly opposed to the draining of Lake Powell and I will document my position in a few moments.

Spiritually, I grew up in Glen Canyon. I have lived and worked and played on the Colorado plateau most of my adult life, and I have outfitted over 30,000 people on river trips through the Grand Canyon. I have represented the outfitting industry and the transition work group for several years working directly with the Bureau of Reclamation and the dozen or so cooperating agencies in the development of the Glen Canyon Dam EIS.
In the spring of 1962, I was twice blessed when I floated through Glen Canyon with David Brower. Before dawn one morning, I left alone for the 6-mile hike up Aztec Creek to see Rainbow Bridge and upon returning to camp I had an epiphany. I cried out loud and apologized to God for our flooding of Glen Canyon. That experience forever annealed the environmental ethic to my soul.
The second blessing was meeting and coming to know David Brower, a personal hero of mine. David Brower taught me that one person can make a monumental difference in the world.
My first reaction to the notion of draining Lake Powell and freeing the Colorado River to its pre-dammed condition was, wouldn't it be wonderful to turn back the clock? And what a preposterous idea.
My more studied reaction to the proposal to drain Lake Powell is that the riparian habitat in Grand Canyon downstream from the dam is today amazingly vibrant, rich in biodiversity, nonetheless legitimate because it is a highly managed ecosystem. And it is threatened by both the prospect of draining Lake Powell and the possibility that nature may act first to blow out Glen Canyon Dam, with or without the authorization of Congress.
With the control of annual flooding in Grand Canyon, there has been a dramatic increase in riparian vegetation with a corresponding increase of biodiversity, including supportive habitat for threatened and endangered species. By accident, we have created a refuge for Neotropical birds of regional significance, and the cold clear water below the dam supports a blue ribbon trout fishery. A highly regulated river has produced high biodiversity and new recreational opportunity.

 

What are the environmental consequences of draining Lake Powell?

With the draining of Lake Powell and the freeing of Glen Canyon from beneath megatons of potentially toxic sediments, restoration would begin immediately and take perhaps a millennium for nature to restore Glen Canyon to, to what? We don't know. But not likely to its original splendor.
Glen Canyon would be an unstable environment for a very long period of time, and the first species to reclaim the land would very likely be invasive, nonnative specious such as tamarisk and camel thorn. Restoration to a natural condition may neither be possible nor desirable. We know very little about the environmental consequences of draining Lake Powell, but we do know some things about river sediments and delta deposits elsewhere.
As river sediments accumulate, various naturally occurring compounds and heavy metals concentrate to toxic levels.
What do the proponents of draining the lake suggest we do with these potentially toxic sediments? The Colorado River flowing into Glen Canyon would carry the same sediments it does today. Upon entering the former Lake Powell, the river would pick up newly exposed lake sediments. At best, the mix of lake sediments with upstream sediments is a black box scientifically.
If the sediments flow through Glen and Grand Canyons, then Lake Meade will fill all the more quickly. And then are we to decommission Hoover Dam as well? Is the only ultimate answer to let the sediments run through to the Sea of Cortez? To use the water, we must remove the sediments. And I admit, that fact poses very tough questions for future generations. It is not too soon to start looking for the answers today.
I am a strong advocate for deepening scientific inquiry at Lake Powell. What is the composition of lake sediments and how fast are they accumulating? Do the lake sediments pose a health and safety concern for our or future generations? How much water is really lost to evaporation percolation? What about meromixis, the accumulation of deep water conditions with high salinity and very low oxygen levels which some day could kill fish and corrode turbines? Scientists can answer these questions and we need to give them all the support and the funding we can reasonably pull together to look at those.

Included in the scope of this hearing is the reduction of water storage capability of Lake Powell. I also would like to urge both Committees to strongly advocate a governmental risk analysis to determine the competency of Glen Canyon Dam and flood control capacity in Lake Powell to withstand a 500-year flood.
How long did the engineers design the dam to last? Was it smart to put it in sandstone in the first place? There is a lot of speculation as to how long the dam will be there. We almost lost it in 1983 when El Nino produced 210 percent of normal snowpack in the early spring and a warm June brought it all down the first 10 days of the month.
Meteorologists tell us the coming El Nino event building off the coast of South America is expected to be the biggest of the century. A 500-year flood run events about—flood event runs about 250,000 cubic feet per second and sedimentologists with the Bureau of Reclamation point to evidence of prehistoric floods of up to 400,000 cubic feet per second. With all tubes and spillways flowing, Glen Canyon Dam can release 270,000 cubic feet per second.
Back in 1983, the dam flowed 93,000 cubic feet per second. So when reviewing these figures, we have a potential 500-year flood event—who knows if El Nino will bring it or not—of 250,000 to 400,000 cubic feet per second. We did pass 93,000 cubic feet per second through the dam in 1983 with some serious, serious corrosive erosion effects to the bypass tubes.
So now we are talking about the possibility of passing 250,000, 270,000 cubic feet per second through the dam in a major flood event for flood control purposes. That is three times the amount of water that we passed through the dam in 1983.
My view is that the Subcommittees can productively focus time and resources on assuring the public that the risk analysis of managing a 500-year flood is addressed. Whether the lake is drained by man or the dam is blown out by nature, the riparian resources in both Glen Canyon and Grand Canyon will recover in a few hundred years. If we fail to accommodate the eventuality of a 500-year flood, we may have created a situation with unacceptable risks to society.

I thank the Committees very much for the opportunity to testify.
Mr. HANSEN. Thank you, Mr. Elliott. We appreciate your testimony.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Elliott may be found at end of hearing.]

Mr. HANSEN. Mr. Hunter.
STATEMENT OF JOSEPH HUNTER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, COLORADO RIVER ENERGY DISTRIBUTION ASSOCIATION (CREDA)
Mr. HUNTER. 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.
Mr. HANSEN. Thank you, Mr. Hunter.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Hunter may be found at end of hearing.]

 

Mr. HANSEN. Mr. Wegner, we are happy that you have had the patience to stay with us.
Mr. WEGNER. Finally.
Mr. HANSEN. We will turn the time to you now.
STATEMENT OF DAVID WEGNER, ECOSYSTEM MANAGEMENT INTERNATIONAL
Mr. WEGNER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and members of the Committee. My name is Dave Wegner. I am here representing the Glen Canyon Institute today. I am also the owner of a small business in Flagstaff, Arizona, called Ecosystem Management International.
I have provided to the Committee my testimony, which again it is here. And also I didn't know it was going to be a show and tell, but we brought a book that you can have, also. So please take it and look at it.
I am going to ad-lib a little bit because of all the comments that I heard today, and I have to commend my fellow panelists here and all the panelists today. I have known of most of these gentlemen and ladies for years. We have worked on many issues together involving the Colorado River and Glen Canyon Dam.
For the past 22 years, I have been privileged to work for the Department of Interior, to look at the issues associated with the Colorado River drainage. It is an area that I have studied extensively. I am a scientist by training. I am not a politician. I am not a businessman. I am not a bureaucrat. All I am is a simple scientist trying to get to the facts. Those facts, gathered over the last 14 years that Mr. Hunter referred to, is that the Grand Canyon and the Colorado River are in serious need of some restoration. We cannot sustain the environmental resources, the endangered fish and the endangered bird with the present level of effort and the operation of the river system.

Many good questions came out today, and I really commend the panelists and the Committee for asking them. I guess as the author of the primary document, the proposal to develop the citizens' environmental assessment, we are going to use every one of these questions that came up today. They are going to help us frame this whole document.
Let me give you a little brief history of Glen Canyon Institute. We are a volunteer organization. None of us get paid. There is no—none of us get wages to deal with this. We are private citizens. We are scientists. We are environmentalists and boaters, but there is one common thread. We are all concerned about Glen Canyon and the Colorado River.
The proposal to develop the citizens' EA, which flows out of the environmental studies that were done at Glen Canyon Dam over the past 14 years, is our way of trying to document the science, document the information. Today we are here seeking wisdom, we are here in this place of power and trappings to look at how we can move forward with this whole proposal.
Yesterday at 6 p.m., I was on the Animas River, and I wish Senator Campbell was still here. This is a little water from his river. I was there talking to students about the value of our resources, about the value of our endangered species.
Yes, Congressmen, it is all about water. It is about water that supplies not only development, not only power, not only recreation, but this is the lifeblood of the species that depend upon it.
And, yes, we are looking at diminishing species. The Upper Basin in particular is putting millions of dollars into endangered species programs. The single most important thing we could do would be to develop more habitats for these endangered fish. If you develop the habitats, the fish and the birds will use them.
The system, specifically the Colorado River system, is compromised. The heart of the Colorado River, Glen Canyon, has been drowned. It has been drowned for almost 35 years now.

 

The proposal that the Glen Canyon Institute is putting forth is not developed by a group of bureaucrats. We are not being developed by corporations. None of us own river companies. We are just private people who are concerned about looking at the issues. What we do represent are people who are interested in the river, interested in the canyon, and interested in finding ways not only for this generation but for future generations to protect our rich natural heritage.
We are people who believe in the resources. We are people who believe in the fish. We are people who speak for the birds. We also are asking through this environmental assessment, which we are not asking a dollar from Congress for, to allow us the freedom of free speech that several of the panelists have asked and talked about in the past to explore these issues.
We believe that the United States is founded on a democratic process of asking questions, gathering data, and evaluating the information, and we want to do that successfully. And we invite anybody, anyone on the panels, any citizen, who wants to be involved to join us. Come on, let's talk about it; let's debate it.
Yes, it is all about water. It is all about habitats. It is all about that area and that sense of place called Glen Canyon. And I wish to heck David Brower was here today, because he is much more eloquent at expressing those particular ideas.
We need to—no, let me rephrase that. We must ask the question of what are we going to do with these dams for the future? Not only for us, but for the future generations, our kids, our grandkids, their grandkids? We are committed to the process. We are committed, most importantly, to the resources.
We are not here today asking you for money. We are not here asking you for wisdom. We are not even asking you for validation. All we are asking is for the right to look at it, to look at it with a citizens' environmental assessment and to move forward with the issues for the future.

 

Thank you.
Mr. HANSEN. Thank you.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Wegner may be found at end of hearing.]

Mr. HANSEN. The gentleman from California, Mr. Doolittle.
Mr. DOOLITTLE. Mr. Wegner, it is my understanding the Sierra Club has called for the use of public funds in certain respects pertaining to the draining of Lake Powell. Do you concur with that request or do you disagree with it?
Mr. WEGNER. We are raising funds independently of the Sierra Club.
Mr. DOOLITTLE. Do you concur with their support for public funds or do you not?
Mr. WEGNER. We would like to get public funds if we could, but I am not—we are not depending upon them and that is why we have initiated on our private level.
Mr. DOOLITTLE. So do you support their suggestion that public funds should be used?
Mr. WEGNER. If you can get it, you bet.
Mr. DOOLITTLE. Mr. Hunter, has anyone actually calculated the cost to decommission a dam the size of Glen Canyon Dam?
Mr. HUNTER. Mr. Chairman, not that I am aware of. I would be happy to check, but I—to my knowledge, a decommissioning of that magnitude has never been seriously contemplated.
Mr. DOOLITTLE. Given that it is a relatively new dam, how much is the outstanding repayment on the dam?

 

Mr. HUNTER. Mr. Chairman, I am going to have to provide you with exact dollar figures because, as you know, the Colorado River Storage Project itself, of which Glen Canyon Dam is only one piece, is what the repayment is of.
The total repayment of the entire project, and this would be far greater than the dam itself, is well over $1 billion.
Mr. DOOLITTLE. OK. Well, maybe you can supply the answer specifically for the record.
Mr. HUNTER. Certainly.
[The information referred to may be found at end of hearing.]

Mr. DOOLITTLE. How do you—let me just ask you this: How do you think the debt would be handled if the dam were no longer producing power?
Mr. HUNTER. Congressman, as Acting Administrator Hacskaylo said this morning, I don't have an answer for that. Essentially, if you remove Glen Canyon Dam from the system, you are removing the facility that produces 75 percent of the revenues for the entire project, the entire Upper Colorado River Basin. If you simply lift that piece out of it, to me it is inconceivable that you would somehow place the remaining burden, which would still be over $1 billion, on the remainder of the project power facilities. It simply wouldn't work to try to market that power and repay it.
By default, I would have to believe that that burden would fall on the taxpayers, most likely. I don't know who else would pay it.
Mr. DOOLITTLE. Thank you.
Mr. Elliott, do you think that the summer conditions that would exist on the river in the Grand Canyon, without the Glen Canyon Dam, that you described in your testimony, would be appealing to many of your current rafting customers?

 

Mr. ELLIOTT. I don't think it would be either better or worse, but let me paint the following picture: Both pre-dam and post-dam, at Lee's Ferry, where we embark down the river, in the month of August, for example, we would have—the water temperature would be maybe 80 degrees. It would be perhaps 10 percent mud and we would no longer have the ability to get clean. We would no longer have the ability to help keep our perishable foods cold for another 2 weeks down the river, et cetera.
We happen to think right now that the condition that we have below the dam is a preferred condition both in terms of the richness of the biodiversity of specious, as well as the colder water, the cleaner water, as more suitable for rafting.
Mr. DOOLITTLE. You do get—when you get far enough down the river, even now you get into those muddy kinds of conditions; don't you?
Mr. ELLIOTT. We certainly do, from the inflow from the Paria River and also, especially this time of year, from the inflow from the Little Colorado River. But it is one thing to look out and have a muddy river; it is another thing to dip your arm into it and pull your arm back and have all of your hair follicles completely full of silt. That is an entirely different circumstance.
Mr. DOOLITTLE. Do you know, prior to the time the dam was built, how many people floated down that stretch of the river from, I guess from Lee's Ferry down?
Mr. ELLIOTT. It could be measured in terms of the hundreds as opposed to the tens of thousands. The critical year is about 1968, 1969, where if you look at a curve of all of the use, it was about 1968 or 1969 where as many people went through the canyon—I think it was about 3,000 people in 1969—as had gone in all of history. That is when the use just skyrocketed, after 1969.
Mr. DOOLITTLE. Thank you.
Mr. HANSEN. The gentleman from Arizona, Mr. Shadegg.

Mr. SHADEGG. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Let me begin by saying, Mr. Wegner, I certainly acknowledge your expertise in the field. I suppose in all the world you are one of the most renowned experts on the Grand Canyon.
I would comment, based on your testimony, that thanks to the first amendment you don't have to ask us for permission to study this or to research it, and I hope you will research it thoroughly and debate it, and I wish you all the best in that.
Mr. WEGNER. Thank you.
Mr. SHADEGG. With regard to your comment about developing more habitat for native species, I encourage you in that effort as well. I think indeed we have lost some native species. That is indisputable.
My concern is, how many species will we lose that are not native that are still productive and useful and have a great value if we go overboard in trying to restore habitat for native species? So I would urge you to, in looking for ways to restore habitat for native species, figure out a way not to drain Lake Powell.
Mr. Elliott, I want to compliment you. I think your testimony is some of the most thoughtful we have here and I think, in terms of rafting the river, going down the river and taking people down the river, you probably have more expertise than any witness we have had today.
In that regard, I want to walk you through a series of questions. I mentioned earlier today, and I put in the record, this National Geographic issue of July of this year. It has a discussion of this whole issue, and I want to focus in part on some comments about the Grand Canyon Trust, and you served on the board of the Grand Canyon Trust, but I also want to focus on this particular chart which is in the magazine.
As I understand your testimony, it really is much along the lines of my opening remarks, which is that we don't have the option of going back; that we have what we have at this point in time and that the issue isn't, could we snap our fingers and have Lake Powell never have been constructed but rather what can we do now?

I want to just ask you if you have seen this magazine?
Mr. ELLIOTT. No, I haven't.
Mr. SHADEGG. OK. Maybe I can get somebody to bring it to you.
It shows, on the page that I have it open to, a very verdant and vibrant ecosystem in the river now, which in fact supports, albeit different but from what is shown there, more habitat, more wildlife, more plant life than prior to the dam. Is that your understanding of the facts?
Mr. ELLIOTT. That is my understanding of the facts. That is my understanding from talking with scientists, most recently a Larry Stevens in Flagstaff, for a couple of hours last week, who is a foremost biologist having studied the riparian habitat downstream from the dam. It is also my observations from just antidotally.
Mr. SHADEGG. I think the point made in your testimony is well taken and that is, you know, one can argue whether it is better or worse but in point of fact there is more animal and plant life and wildlife now than then, albeit different.
To go to Mr. Wegner's point, it seems to me, if the question is, well, we want to restore the entire Grand Canyon to its, quote/unquote, natural state, if you then posit the only way to do that is to remove Glen Canyon Dam or the lake, it is hard to argue that point; isn't it?
It is pretty hard to make the point that you can't restore it to its pre-lake condition without absolutely removing the dam or at least allowing the water to completely flow around it, correct?
Mr. ELLIOTT. Not in Glen Canyon. But are you speaking of Glen Canyon now or the Grand Canyon?
Mr. SHADEGG. I am sorry, the Grand Canyon.
Mr. ELLIOTT. OK.

 

Mr. SHADEGG. In the stretch below the dam, where we now have apparently a more verdant habitat, we could hardly restore that if we didn't do what the Lake Powell Institute advocates?
Mr. ELLIOTT. We get into a debate of whether—of kind of a values debate, is the natural condition preferred over the managed ecosystem that we have today?
We could certainly attempt to restore the natural condition in the Grand Canyon by letting the sediments flow through.
Mr. SHADEGG. Good point.
Mr. ELLIOTT. And we could perhaps get to that condition. It may or may not bring back the endangered fish species, for example, but certainly the spring floods that would be allowed in a run-of-the-river scenario through the dam would again flood the banks, would wipe out a great deal of the vegetation which supports the enrichment of the species' diversity today.
Mr. SHADEGG. We could also try to raise the temperature perhaps by drawing water into the turbines at a higher level or something along that line; could we not?
Mr. ELLIOTT. We can do that.
One of the factors that has caused the enrichment of the biodiversity is the clarity of the water. Light is allowed to penetrate through to the bottom of the river. It supports a plant called cladophera, which in turn supports a tiny little invertebrate, which in turn, supports the food chain right on up the ladder. There is a new abundance in waterfowl. In turn, the peregrine falcon feed on the waterfowl that represents about 80 percent of their diet, et cetera.
So we have a—all starting with clear water and sunlight penetrating through to the bottom of the river, we have a much richer species diversity in that area now. If we return to the sediments, that could theoretically help the—could help the beaches, could help even some of the camping areas. But we would return to less—very likely I think we would return to a reduced biodiversity and species.

 

Mr. SHADEGG. If I could request 2 additional minutes? I will be brief.
Mr. HANSEN. The gentleman is recognized.
Mr. SHADEGG. I just want to make a couple more quick points. I know you are on the board of the Grand Canyon Trust which is concerned about the ecological health of the Grand Canyon.
Your testimony raises in the most serious way the question of the heavy metals and contamination in the sediment on the bottom of the lake. I just want to point out that in this National Geographic article, Jeff Bernard, President at least at that time of the Grand Canyon Trust, says, draining Lake Powell could also be dangerous. I quote, I think it is important to stake out a vision of a free flowing Colorado River but there are many problems right now.
He does, in fact, go on to address the sediment and the heavy metals and contaminants in that sediment.
To your knowledge—I know the Grand Canyon Trust has not taken a position on this issue. To your knowledge, has the Grand Canyon Trust studied the issue of airborne contaminants were we to drain the lake?
Mr. ELLIOTT. No, they have not. And the—this whole issue has not been debated at the board level. And it is correct, I sit on the board of trustees of the Grand Canyon Trust. They have begun the evaluation in staff discussions to look at it, and I think it is safe to say in terms of the Grand Canyon Trust that they believe very strongly in the science and they would want to look at any scientific evidence that would support the viability of this proposal. They do not have a position at this time.
Mr. SHADEGG. I certainly am not a scientist or an expert, and I don't know the answer but I do know that what little research—what research we have been able to do in the short time for preparing for this hearing gives us concern which I have adverted to having to do with experience of Owens Lake and the dust which rises off of it.

 

Poor Mr. Wegner is dying to make a comment. I hope you will look at this issue, but let me afford you to make that comment briefly.
Mr. WEGNER. Well, we have, and that whole issue with the sediments is extremely important because we realize the high concentrations of mercury and selenium and a whole bunch of other heavy metals suites that are there. The issue here is—and specifically would be dealt with in the EA—is that as you would draw down the lake, you would start to mobilize those sediments and move them slowly downstream in the manner that the ecosystem could deal with.
We do not and will not propose to leave a whole expanse of drying out sediments there that would become airborne. I am very familiar with Owens Lake and all the issues in Kesterson.
Mr. SHADEGG. Let me just conclude by turning to Mr. Hunter. This whole issue of conservation, I personally believe that conservation is a little bit like the Congress saying we are going to save money. We talk about saving money through waste reduction and we never quite do it. It seems to me that if we can do conservation, we ought to be doing the conservation to avoid building future coal-fired or other power plants.
But I want to make the point about peaking. It seems to me that hydropower is uniquely suited to peaking. Peaking means that we use power at different levels at different times of the day; is that right?
Mr. HUNTER. That is correct.
Mr. SHADEGG. So if you were to conserve peaking power, what you really have to do is say to the people of Phoenix or Yuma or Los Angeles or San Diego, we have this idea; we are going to save peaking power, which means that during the 30 hottest days of the summer, when we need that peaking power, since we no longer have it, we don't want you to run your air conditioning from 4 p.m. to, say, 7 p.m., the hottest hours of the day. Pretty realistic?

 

Mr. HUNTER. You are absolutely correct. The only way to conserve peaking load would be to dramatically change behavior.
Mr. SHADEGG. I don't know how we are going to get the earth to make it not hotter between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. than it is, say, between 4 a.m. and 7 a.m.
Mr. Chairman, I have nothing further.
Mr. HANSEN. Thank you, Mr. Shadegg.
It has been a very interesting hearing. I appreciate the patience of all of you.
Mr. Werbach, you know, if I was head of the Sierra Club, I think I would find a dam that didn't have so much multiple use to it. You have heard all of the things that this dam has.
Have you ever thought of Hetch Hetchy in Yosemite? Now, I could probably go along with that one. I think that probably has some real clout to it.
Of course, you would have 52 Members of the House and 2 from the Senate and the administration, because they are very interested in the political votes there as we saw on something called the Air Logistic Center of McClellan where they violated the law, but Hetch Hetchy, in my mind, would probably be a—I mean, right there in the beautiful Yosemite National Park. I say that somewhat tongue in check, but I still think it was one that the Sierra Club ought to give peripheral thought about. You may find one of great interest there.
You know what, the proposal you have brought up is so critical to the entire southwest part of America, I mean, you have got the Upper and Lower Basin States, this is of utmost importance, and I think we could all see it here today, how it would affect so many, many, literally millions and millions, of people. So we would hope that you would look at it in a very critical way and be very careful on what you propose.
Of course, I don't give you folks instructions. You are perfectly capable of doing that, and you have a perfect right to come up with any proposal you have a bent to do.

 

I noticed that you were on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon in September 1996 when President Clinton made 1.7 million acres of Utah a monument.
You know, I don't mean to differ with you but respectfully point out that if I have ever seen anybody shoot themselves in the foot, the environmentalists did it at that point, as we have researched that exhaustively. You used the 1916 antiquity law and therefore extinguished wilderness that would come under NEPA, come under the 1964 Wilderness Act, the FLIPMA act, and now it is wide open. And people are coming in there by the hundreds and they are colloquially referring to it now as ''toilet paper city.'' You know, if the President had worked with us on that we could have put in Fifty Mile Ridge and a few other areas and come up with a good piece of legislation.
And when you were there, I noticed that you spent some time with—not that I would want to tell you what you did, but some time with Vice President Gore and President Clinton. Are they—do they have any interest in this proposal to drain Lake Powell or was that something not considered?
Mr. WERBACH. We have not raised it with the administration.
Mr. HANSEN. I see. I would be curious to know where they are coming from.
Well, not to elaborate on things such as that, we will thank the witnesses. And, Mr. Werbach, we appreciate your patience for coming here and thank you for sitting through three panels. That is very kind of you.
And this hearing is now adjourned.
[Whereupon, at 2:10 p.m., the Subcommittees were adjourned.]
[Additional material submitted for the record follows.]


 

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