Join the Movement to Fill Lake Powell

Glen Canyon Dam created an opportunity.  At the time of its construction, this opportunity was sometimes viewed in terms of water storage, power generation and flood control.  Recreation on newly-formed Lake Powell, while clearly envisioned as a planned benefit, was perceived by some as a byproduct of the other reasons the dam was built, rather than as a primary purpose.  That perception must change to align with current realities.

Lake Powell, which was once a remote but breathtaking recreational outpost with little supporting infrastructure, had by 2019 become a $420 million economic engine each year, and that’s just from direct revenue generated, not even counting any multiplier effect in the region.  Annual visitation, which in 1967 was under 500,000, had increased eight-fold by the end of the second decade of the 21st century.  By 2019, recreation on Lake Powell was producing more revenue than the power generated through the dam, a trend that will likely continue as other new energy options present themselves, but only if—and this is the crucial part—Lake Powell and its supporting infrastructure continue to exist and be maintained. 

Water supply issues are evolving as well.  Water rights have been well-established, and the seven states in the Upper and Lower Basin, along with Mexico, work closely with the Bureau of Reclamation to manage water supply based on a series of laws and protocols first established a century ago.  But the legal framework they operate under no longer works as intended, especially as long-term drought has gripped the region, especially in the 21st century.  As water supply from the Colorado River has become less reliable, water managers in those states will become more creative with conservation practices while working to develop new supplies through recycled water, desalination opportunities, and engineered solutions. 

As the need to focus on water and power from the Colorado River system continues to diminish, the importance of recreational opportunities only increases.  Lake Powell is a unique resource not just in the country, but in the entire world: a desert oasis providing unlikely access to some of the most beautiful canyons on the planet, while providing a haven for anglers, campers, hikers and anybody with a camera.  It’s an international treasure.

As times have changed, so must the focus of those who manage the lake.  Priorities change.  The purpose of the dam and the lake it created have evolved.  While there are loud and persistent voices who see draining the lake as the only reasonable path forward, we offer an alternative vision. Now is the time to Fill Lake Powell.

Fill Lake Powell Mission Statement: Fill Lake Powell is committed to maintaining an economically viable Lake Powell, protecting and defending the public’s recreational rights within Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, and adding the voice of recreation users to the dicussion surrounding the allocation of water resources in the West.

Fill Lake Powell Guiding Principles:

1. Glen Canyon National Recreational Area, established by Congress in 1972, will continue to offer unparalleled recreational land and water based recreation opportunities for the public as a premier destination

6. When there are water shortages such that all competing management goals may not be attainable, prioritize recreational interests, water supply, and power generation related to Lake Powell as a function of the relative economic importance of these activities. Recognize and work within the confines of existing environmental laws while also exploring ways to improve these laws to balance resource utilization with environmental preservation.

 

2. Establish lake recreationists (represented by Fill Lake Powell, a project associated with the Blue Ribbon Coalition, a non-profit organization whose goal is to maintain public access to public lands and waters) as an entity with a seat at the table as any components of the existing legal framework for managing the Colorado River are renegotiated. Fill Lake Powell represents the broad coalition of lake-oriented recreational interests, which go far beyond the seven states within the basin. Fill Lake Powell would be an active participant in strategic discussions and planning involving water management issues

7.  Minimize fluctuating lake levels to the extent possible within the framework of a renegotiated agreement with BOR and other interested parties, in order to reduce maintenance and operational costs associated with established and permanent lake recreational facilities.

3.  Recognize non-consumptive recreational rights to use stored water in Lake Powell as a key aspect of a renegotiated agreement among the interested parties as the 1922 Compact is updated, a concept already firmly and legally established in several of states within the Colorado River watershed. Fill Lake Powell will work to ensure that non-consumptive recreational rights are protected at all levels of the law and in the execution of public policy.

8.  Work with the Tribal Nations, as well as state and local governments to establish and maintain appropriate lake-oriented recreational facilities to enhance the economic viability of the region, while respecting and mitigating for the environmental and cultural resources that could otherwise be affected by such facilities.

4. Maintain a target elevation on Lake Powell of at least 3588 feet above sea level, which would allow all existing marinas, boat ramps and related facilities to operate and maximize revenue generation. These facilities include, but are not necessarily limited to: Wahweap Marina and related boat ramps, Antelope Point Marina and related boat ramps, Castle Rock Cut, Dangling Rope Marina (or another mid-lake marina if Dangling Rope is relocated), Bullfrog Marina and related boat ramps, Halls Crossing Marina and related boat ramps, Lone Rock Beach, Stanton Canyon campground, Hite outpost, and various floating bathrooms and pumpout facilities.  BOR shall plan releases through Glen Canyon Dam in such a way to achieve this target elevation by the beginning of Water Year 2025-26 (October 1, 2025), which may require incremental increases in releases up until that date.   

9.  The NPS shall produce a 10-year management plan for GCNRA and publish it in a convenient format, updating the plan as appropriate. The plan should include revenue and use projections as well as planned improvements, identifying timing and potential revenue sources for planned facilities.  The plan should emphasize ways to maximize GCNRA access for all forms of watercraft, beach users, hikers, off-road users, aircraft, anglers, commercial tour operators, campers, and any other outdoor recreation users who love GCNRA as much as we do.  The plan should also include actions to facilitate access, visitation and recreation in a manner consistent with existing law, current management plans, and agency regulations – including the Department of Interior’s Equity Access Plan.

5.  If the target elevation of 3588 cannot be maintained in a given year because of poor snowpack or other competing demands on the system related to water supply or power, establish protocols that meet minimum water supply and power requirements while maintaining economically viable recreational opportunities on the lake. Currently these measures are being deployed when the lake drops below 3525, which doesn’t adequately take into account the impact to recreation.

10.  Work collaboratively in a spirit of cooperation with competing regional interests, seeking common ground rather than confrontation in an effort to achieve common goals.

 

Lake Powell Update and the Desalination Research Advancement Act, H.R. 7612

Lake Powell Update and the Desalination Research Advancement Act, H.R. 7612

Many new and exciting things are happening as we continue to be involved with Lake Powell and the Colorado Basin. Recently, the Flaming Gorge Operations Plan for the next year has been officially released and you can read that plan here. Below is the graph for the...