Over the past few years there has been a number of successful attempts to remove dams on some of the larger rivers in the American west. The results have generally been improved environments, more natural habitats, and better flows of rivers throughout the region. Now, environmentalists are turning their attention to Glen Canyon Dam in Utah, which could have a similar impact on the Colorado River, and improve conditions further down river, including in Lake Mead and the Grand Canyon itself.
The gist of the story is laid out in an article written by Tim Gibbins on a post to the O.A.R.S. blog. Essentially, the Glen Canyon Dam was built in a time period when a lot of other dams were being built in the west as a way to control the flow of the river as a method to help create environments suitable for farming and provide water to areas that were typically very arid. But when the dam was completed, it also created Lake Powell, which filled in a landscape that is spectacular enough to be considered on the same level as many national parks. The Glen Canyon has sat mostly under water – and unappreciated – ever since.
As Tim points out in his article, Lake Powell reached its hight point back on July 15, 1983. Today, it sits at just 50% capacity, and the dam that created it may be doing more harm than good. Worse yet, climatologists believe that neither Powell, nor Lake Mead, will ever fill to their capacities again.
This has led to a movement to decommission the Glen Canyon Dam, which could help to fill Mead, and restore the Glen Canyon region to its former glory. Beneath all of that water is a natural landscape filled with twisting gorges, rock spires, and other natural wonders just waiting to be rediscovered. Removing the dam would allow that to happen, and would have a positive impact downstream as well.
We are a long way from the dam being dismantled, but there is at least a conversation brewing about the positive side effects it could bring. As more people pick up on this story, it could gain enough momentum to being the process at long last.