Drought-stricken reservoir to revert to pre-diversion conditions within 10 years
By Snob Beerwhine
SUMMIT COUNTY — In a classic “see-you-later” political move, outgoing Interior Secretary Ben Malabar announced that the federal government will start decommissioning Glen Canyon Dam and draining Lake Powell as soon as this summer.
Malabar announced the change in U.S. water policy in an April 1 memo that outlined how communities that depend on the stored water in Lake Powell can adapt.
“Recent studies make it clear that, because of global warming, Lake Powell only has a few decades left anyway, so we’re going to get ahead of the curve on this issue,” Malabar said, adding that it’s high time that the Colorado River flows to the sea the way God intended.
Starting April 1, all the water flowing down the Colorado will be passed through Lake Powell, with a little bit of extra to account for all the water that should have gone to Mexico in the 50 years since the impoundment was built.
“We owe them big-time,” Malabar said. “We’re pretty lucky we’re dealing with a mid-sized country that doesn’t have much of a military. Actually there are probably very few countries that would have tolerated this for anywhere near the time Mexico has,” he said.
Malabar also touted the recreation benefits of restoring the river’s ecosystem below the dam as part of the administration’s Great Outdoors initiative. Raft trip reservations through the Grand Canyon are hard to come by, and opening new opportunities downstream could be a real boon to outfitters.
In a memo obtained under FOIA, Malabar wrote that those poor schlubs in Los Angeles, Phoenix and Las Vegas will just have to let some lawns dry up, or desalinate sea water or something.
Draining the reservoir will take about 10 years total and the ecosystem below the dam should be restored in about 75 to 150 years, according to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.