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Some want to fill Lake Powell, others want to drain it

Posted at 9:29 PM, Jun 16, 2023

GLEN CANYON RECREATION AREA, Utah — To save or not to save Lake Powell?

That is the question the Bureau of Reclamation is asking, now looking to the public to help create future guidelines and strategies to protect the Colorado River.

Over the next two years, the Bureau will make big decisions on how much water to preserve in the Colorado River reservoirs, like Lake Mead and Lake Powell and how much they should be releasing downstream to those who need to use the water.

The Blue Ribbon Coalition is recommending its "3588’ Plan" to fill Lake Powell, said executive director Ben Burr.

“The amount of water we actually have available in the system doesn't quite meet the needs and expectations of what they built the system to deliver," he said.

Burr said the Bureau needs to focus on raising lake levels for the sake of hydropower and recreation for all kinds of boats.

“If we care about living in the West, we need reliable sources of water," he said. "The generations before us looked at this and made hard decisions. They did decide to build that dam, even though it was hugely controversial, and still is, but that's why we're here today.”

On the other hand, some people say it’s too late to save Lake Powell, like Gary Wockner, the director of Save The Colorado.

“[The Bureau of Reclamation] didn't say they want to protect dams," he said. "They didn't say they want to protect water-users’ ability to continue draining the river. They said, ‘Protect the Colorado River.'”

Wockner hopes the Bureau will consider decommissioning the Glen Canyon Dam, draining Lake Powell, and focusing on saving Lake Mead.

“Even though we've had a wet year, obviously we've had a wet year, the trend is still towards drying and warming," he said.

Burr says it would be catastrophic to remove the Glen Canyon Dam.

“Lake Powell is bringing enough benefit across the board, both recreation power generation and water storage and delivery, that we should keep it and do what we can to preserve it," he said.

While Burr hopes recreators will have a say in the decision, Wockner hopes environmentalists will get a seat at the table.

The Bureau of Reclamation will host three virtual public meetings in July where people can make public comments:

The meetings are: