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Facts Are In: Removing Glen Canyon Dam Makes Economic and Environmental Sense

An important new study commissioned by the Glen Canyon Institute concludes that, if Glen Canyon Dam stopped generating hydropower, it would have only a negligible impact on the western power grid, would have a minuscule impact on residential customers of hydropower, and would actually save tens of millions of dollars each year in taxpayer subsidies and wasted water.

The study, led by Dr. Thomas Power, a respected economics professor emeritus at University of Montana, investigated the claim by water and power managers that the loss of hydropower generation at Glen Canyon Dam would have catastrophic impacts on the customers that currently get at least some of their electricity from the dam.

The claim is just not true.

The study found that:

  • the average annual value of Glen Canyon Dam’s electric energy represents less than one half of one percent of the sales value from electric generation in the western grid, and that the grid could readily absorb the loss of hydropower from the dam;
  • the total impacts would be an increase of $16.31 million in electricity costs for consumers of Glen Canyon Dam power, but because they would be spread among 3.2 million customers, the individual impacts would be miniscule; and,
  • average rate increases would be only $.08 per month for residential customers, $.59 per month for commercial customers, and $6.16 per month for industrial customers of Glen Canyon Dam electricity.

More important, Dr. Power found that discontinuation of Glen Canyon Dam operations could have substantial offsetting economic benefits.  Eliminating hydropower production at Glen Canyon could result in savings of up to $35 million annually in management costs and increased earnings of as much as $40 million annually due to expanded hydropower production at Hoover Dam.  Water supplies in the Colorado would be improved because of seepage from Lake Powell would be reduced and less water would be lost to evaporation.

This is an important study because debunks the flawed rationale to maintain the status quo at Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell.  The report shows that even if Lake Powell were completely drained, the loss of hydropower would have a minimal impact on the vast majority of consumers of this power, and it would be good for water management throughout the basin.

The time has arrived to seriously consider removing Glen Canyon Dam and allow the water currently in Lake Powell to flow downstream to fill Lake Mead.  The specious arguments used by the Water Nobility to continue the status quo at Glen Canyon just don’t hold water.

Magic of Glen Canyon

Glen Canyon can, and should, be restored by removing Glen Canyon Dam.  The Canyon is a magical place, yet so few peop0le realize what we lost by constructing an unnecessary dam.  See what we lost, and what can be restored, in Kent Wagner’s excellent short film.

Financing for Governor Brown’s “California Water Fix” Crumbles

The financial underpinning for Governor Brown’s California Water Fix seems to be unraveling.

The governor was hoping the Westlands Water District would be a major financial backer for his $15 billion project.  But the SEC’s recent fine of Westlands for misleading bond investors has brought a wave of editorials questioning whether they can be trusted and whether their water users can afford a $15 billion boondoggle. The Contra Costa Times, San Jose Mercury and Modesto Bee have all editorialized against the project.  These editorials, plus scrutiny of the project and its financing in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal and other news outlets raises serious questions about the future of the project.

Can the governor and his delusional band of promoters deflect these criticisms and charge ahead with the project? They’ll try, but once people start looking at the actual financial basis for this boondoggle and compare it to the alternatives, I predict the twin tunnels will crumble.

David Sedlak’s Ted Talk

Water and Money

Water, money and more water. A handful of farmers are still working furiously to manipulate the water debate in CA and the West.

As I recommend in Deadbeat Dams, the federal government should terminate its involvement with the Westlands Water District in California.  “The insatiable greed of the 600 farm operators in Westlands is never-ending,” I wrote.  “No matter how much money and water we pour into their district, it won’t be enough.  They will come back with their hand out for more.”

Were my observations passe or out-of-touch?  No.

New York Times reporters Michael Wine and Jennifer Medina have just written an updated analysis of how Westlands is using money and political muscle to reshape the federal government’s response to the drought.  Read their article.  It’s a fascinating explanation of insiders using money and connections to skew California’s water map to their benefit.  You can read the entire article at: http://nyti.ms/1NUmHy6

Kids Get It…

Kids get it; why can’t our water leaders? My granddaughter asked me to talk to her 5th grade class about water conservation and other environmental issues. The thank you letters I received after my visit were very instructive. 
“I learned a pretty good deal of things. I will, from now on, take shorter showers.”  
“I was so surprised by how much water we use in one week. I learned that we need to be more careful when we use water.”  
“I learned about how much water I have been wasting so from now on I will use much less water.”  
And finally, this comment: “I learned a little goes a long way.”  
Sage advice from 5th graders. Too bad many of our water leaders haven’t gotten the message.

Lake Powell Pipeline Project

On December 1, 2015, the State of Utah is expected to formally submit their application to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for the Lake Powell Pipeline.  The Pipeline would take out 90,000 acre feet of water out of the Colorado River near Lake Powell and send it to Southwest Utah to meet supposed need for additional water because of population growth in the area.

This is a very disappointing and unnecessary step.  The Lake Powell Pipeline project is an unnecessary and grotesquely expensive waste of taxpayer money.  Southwest Utah has hundreds of alternatives for addressing their future water problems, but the Lake Powell Pipeline is not one of those alternatives.  The justification for the project is based on fictitious and bloated water consumption figures that even the experts at the Utah Legislature dispute.

The Lake Powell Pipeline proposal should be immediately withdrawn.  If not, FERC should kill the project.

Axioms About Western Water

An “axiom” is a universally accepted principle or rule. Western water has its own, unique axioms.
1. We don’t allocate or price water according to any rational process. We allocate water, not based on market forces, but by bureaucratic fiat. If we price water at all, we price it not according to its value, but based on what it costs to deliver the water.
2. Western water issues are about politics, not policy. No problem, budget, or solution is ever addressed in an unbiased and detached manner. Politics permeates every decision, every issue, and every proposed solution.
3. Logic and common sense rarely play a role in resolving water problems. For some reason we toss common sense aside and usually pick the most illogical, but politically expedient, way to address problems. We routinely embrace the wrong answer to the wrong question and we get the wrong solution.
4. We throw money at water problems in breath-taking amounts; our politicians don’t care how much we spend to address water problems. It seems that money is no object. They promote absurd schemes costing billions of dollars without batting an eye.
5. When it comes to water, we would rather pour concrete than use water wisely. Somehow, building something – anything – even though it doesn’t solve a problem, is better than addressing a water issue without building something. Concrete over common sense.
6. Water projects are like concrete monuments; take on a life of their own, and never seem to die. If a project is proposed, advocates cling to the dream for generations, never letting go. Even when the project makes no sense at all.