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Ray Grass: Don’t even think about pulling plug on Lake Powell

SHARE Ray Grass: Don’t even think about pulling plug on Lake Powell
The sun sets at Lake Powell in August 2009. The lake level is rising and is currently about 75 feet from full.

The sun sets at Lake Powell in August 2009. The lake level is rising and is currently about 75 feet from full.

Ray Grass, for the Deseret News

A couple of comments from readers about last week's story on fishing at Lake Powell brought home the fact that there are those who still wish to pull the plug on the lake.

One said the lake was full. Another quickly responded that it was only slightly past half full. The lake is currently about 75 feet from the full mark and, by midsummer, is expected to be somewhere around 60 feet below full. Considering the lake is more than 300 feet deep in places, it's a long way up from the half-full mark.

When it was 150 feet below full-pool several years ago, then it was "slightly past half full," but not now. At the low point those wishing the lake were empty said it would never rise again. They were wrong.

Those wishing to drain the lake have made it sound like simply by pulling the plug the world would once again have a canyon, Glen Canyon, in all its beauty and enjoyment.

Again wrong.

There were no provisions made to ever drain the lake. There's no spout at the bottom of the dam to turn on. And, even if there were, there would be huge pockets of water that would remain and become stagnant pools over time with no inlet or outlet.

If the lake were drained, the Colorado River would run flat through Glen Canyon for more than 200 miles. Several years ago a park official pointed out that under such circumstances, and the fact that anyone with a boat could then run the section, the Glen Canyon run would become more popular than the Grand Canyon. If someone receives a permit to run the Grand today, it would not be redeemable for about 20 years.

The option would be a commercial trip. How many families could afford a $1,500 to $2,000 per person price tag or even would pay that much to see canyon walls bleached by water and silted-in canyons?

It was also said a benefit of the draining would be that wonderful landmarks such as the Cathedral in the Desert, a grotto once called the jewel of Glen Canyon, would be, once again, visible. Yes, it would. But who would take the roughly 22-mile round-trip hike with canyon temperatures topping 110 degrees to see the jewel? Under the same conditions, who would choose to hike miles up a canyon trail in blistering heat to see Rainbow Bridge?

A few years ago a couple of writers from back East searched for two days, with a map and detailed directions, to find the Cathedral in the Desert when the water was low. Unsuccessful, they rented a boat and were at the entrance to the grotto in a couple of hours.

I've talked with people in Page who remember days when the river was running unobstructed, and they said all was not beautiful and enjoyable. During runoff, the river ran dark brown and was filled with silt. It was not fun or safe.

And how many years would it be before tamarisk completely clogged the banks barring access to dry land as is the case on the Green and Colorado rivers today?

Right or wrong, we have a lake, a beautiful lake, one of the most beautiful in the world, and it is being enjoyed by millions of people each year.

No, Lake Powell is not full, but it is rising — some years more than others, some years not at all. But the level of the lake has no bearing on the level of enjoyment friends, families and visitors currently enjoy.