Tuesday, September 23, 1997
We will hear testimony today about how some people it would be wonderful to turn back the clock... and indeed sometimes we would perhaps all like to do so. At times we all
wish we could do things differently, in retrospect.
But it cannot happen. Time moves in only one direction.
The wishful thinking and the ill-conceived proposal which brings us here today calls to mind the
lines from Edward Fitzgerald's "Rubiyat of Omar Khayyam:"
The Moving Finger writes; and having writ,
Moves on: nor all your Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it.
Time does move in one direction and that is how God intended it. In this life each of us is called to look forward and not backward.
We will hear testimony today claiming that one of God's creations has been
despoiled by man and one of man's creations. No one here is so arrogant as to say that man's works can replace those of his God. But I am here to stand foresquare in favor of Lake Powell and Glen Canyon Dam as beautiful
and functional works, albeit man-made.
Let us not forget, as we consider this issue, that man is one of God's creations and that man's creations often honor his God.
Ultimately, why is this issue before us?
It is certainly within the purview of Congress to right wrongs, and there will be testimony claiming that the dam and the lake are wrong. The Sierra Club President has called the dam a "horrible mistake of
humanity" and "an arrogant symbol of technology," though, in my mind, technology has raised humanity to extraordinary heights. There will also be testimony as to how right the dam and the lake are. From
solving water and power needs in seven western states to the beauty and recreational opportunities afforded to all citizens, I can assure you, first-hand, they are a wonder. I have spent more than two dozen nights on
Lake Powell and explored every canyon from Wahweap to Bullfrog.
- One man, who will testify here, takes credit for raising this issue to national prominence. He has said that he, virtually alone, is responsible for Glen Canyon Dam and that he has suffered 40 years of guilt
- One organization, the Sierra Club, suffering from a decline in younger membership believes this is the kind of high-profile "litmus test" issue that will boost its youthful membership.
- Another man, who will testify here, founds an institute to "study" the issue and provide reliable data, yet says: "At its heart, this is a religious issue."
We will hear testimony from others that will provide hard facts and scientific data upon which we may draw valid conclusions, but I submit to you, Mr. Chairman, that this issue is before us for the most spurious of
reasons. This issue is driven by ego, sentimentality and guilt. That's hardly a good basis on which to build public policy.
I am hopeful that a meaningful discussion of issues regarding dam safety, long-term siltation
studies, and future remediation and mitigation will be raised and discussed here. But, and I state this as unequivocally as I possibly can: Lake Powell should not be drained. It is an ill-conceived proposal that
appears to be advanced for personal and institutional gain and I will oppose it with every ounce of energy I have.
Even the Utah Chapter of the Sierra Club -- arguably the Chapter most affected by this plan --
acknowledges that time has rendered this a moot issue. Ann Wechshler, leader of the Utah Chapter, said: "We were not consulted. We don't support the draining."
Current habitats, both above and below the dam,
are stable, thriving and providing for the rebound of such endangered species as the peregrine falcon and bald eagle. Lee's Ferry is home to a world-class trout fishery. Flow controls from the dam and last year's
simulated flood have shown that the Grand Canyon can be maintained as a thriving ecosystem. The amount and variety of wildlife supported by Lake Powell has been cataloged and studied to ensure its success. Were the lake
to be drained, all that would be lost. The lack of scouring floods through Grand Canyon has allowed a rich variety of plant and animal life to make a home there. It is true that the habitats have changed, but that does
not make them worse. And by most accounts, they are better.
There are many problems that must be resolved in this debate. For 'instance, the sediment contained in Lake Powell likely contains toxic concentrations of
heavy metals and uranium that could destroy the Grand Canyon as well as Lake Mead if we were to drain Lake Powell as proposed. Of greater concern than that, however, is the silt that is not carried away, but which dries
out and becomes airborne in the many violent storms within this region. As many as 12 times a year, the dry Owens Lake in California is whipped by winds that cut visibility to zero and put 25 times the EPA maximum
amount of particulates into the air. Do we drain Lake Powell only to visually obscure the Grand Canyon and other surrounding National Parks? Do we drain Lake Powell only to expose hundreds of thousands of citizens to
Proponents attempt to counter the enormous economic loss that draining Lake Powell would cause, from lost power generation, water storage, tourism and more, by stating that one million acre feet of water
evaporate from the lake each year. What they don't say is that those million acre feet are the result of storage, not wasted flows.
The Colorado is already fully used, fully apportioned. Eliminating the dam will not
cause one more gallon of water to flow. It will simply cause water hardships in dry years and water waste in wet years. And, of course, water lost to evaporation is not "lost" at all. Even school children know
that it rises to form clouds and falls as rain elsewhere.
Mr. Chairman, we are a nation built on the principle that to look forward is to grow and thrive; to dwell in the past is to wither and die. Not all change is
perfect, good and true; but change is inevitable and to learn from our mistakes is noble and right. To turn our backs on progress for the sake of sentimental wishing is suicide, indeed. The Sierra Club's board of
directors, without consulting its membership has embraced an irresponsible proposal that is not only economically disastrous but is environmentally dangerous