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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. Let me first say that I have grave reservations about this hearing. I did not hear, nor did my staff learn of this hearing until a little over a week ago. And I did not have a chance to invite witnesses until all of the witnesses from Arizona had been invited. I was not afforded that opportunity until last Thursday.

So I have grave concern that those of us who are in opposition to this idea have not had sufficient time to prepare and, with that, may at some point want to request a future hearing. But with that, let me give you my opening statement.

We will hear testimony today about how some people think 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 moves in one direction, and that is how God intended it. In this life, each of us is called to look forward, not backward.

We will hear testimony today claiming that one of God's creation has been destroyed 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 God. But I am here to stand foursquare 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 also will be testimony as to how right the dam and 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 firsthand 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 the 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 over it.

One organization, the Sierra Club, has acknowledged that it is suffering from decline in younger membership and believe this is the kind of high profile litmus test issue that will boost its youthful membership.

Another man, who will not testify here today, but who has founded an institute to study the issue and provide reliable data says, and I quote, ''At its heart, this is a religious issue.''

We will hear testimony from others which will provide hard facts and scientific data upon which we may draw valid conclusions. But I submit to you, Mr. Chairman, this issue is before us for the most spurious of reasons. This issue is driven by ego, sentimentality, guilt, and a desire for profit. That is 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, the future of remediation and mitigation will be raised and discussed here. But I state 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 a Utah Chapter of the Sierra Club, arguably the chapter most affected by this plan, acknowledge that time has rendered the issue moot. Ann Wechshler, leader of the Utah Chapter said, and I quote, ''We were not consulted. We do not 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. Lees's Ferry in my State is home to a world class trout fishery.

Flow controls from the dam in last year's simulated flood has shown 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 the 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 not carried away in the water, but which dries out and becomes airborne in many violent storms within the 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 toxic dust?

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.

The total loss by evaporation which they claim, if the figures are even accurate, is a mere 4 percent of Lake Powell's capacity. And of course, water lost to evaporation is not lost at all. Even school children know it rises to form clouds and fall as rain somewhere else.

Mr. Chairman, we are a Nation built on the principle that to look forward is to grow and to thrive. To dwell in the past is to wither and die. Not all change is perfect and 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 environmentally dangerous. I thank you, Mr. Chairman.

For more information contact. friends@lakepowell.org