Living Rivers - Colorado Riverkeeper
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Living Rivers Currents
January 17, 2002

Silt Happens: LR Forcing Agencies to Respond

Two mile-wide delta backing-up the San Juan River at Lake Powell
Two mile-wide delta backing-up the San Juan River at Lake Powell
LRC V2, N2, January 2002

The National Park Service is currently preparing a Development Concept Plan for Hite Marina on Lake Powell reservoir, despite the fact that sediment is about to fill the marina?s bay. LIVING RIVERS is leading a coalition of environmental, river recreation and outfitter interests demanding that NPS immediately prepare a sediment management plan and associated environmental impact statement for the entire reservoir.

?There?s no doubt this reservoir is filling with sediment,? said Annie Payne, president of Colorado Plateau River Guides. ?It?s amazing that the government wants to pretend that it?s not happening.? Payne and other commercial river runners must deal with an increasing amount of sediment each year, as thousands of multi-day river trips on the San Juan River and Colorado River terminate at Lake Powell reservoir. ?Most people think of this artifical lake as deep and clear, but for us river guides, it means travelling through miles of exposed sediment?mud, exotic weeds, and dust. This makes for a very unpleasant and sometimes dangerous experience for our customers.?

The sediment problem is already affecting Hite Marina, as it will the entire reservoir and dam eventually. In the coalition?s nine-page submission to the National Park Service, LIVING RIVERS demanded that no more public funds be expended for infrastructure planning until, one, the public knows how long it will be before sediment renders existing and planned infrastructure useless, and two, immediate work is undertaken to improve access in the river corridors?prior to spending more money on temporary marina facilities.

A brief sediment study for the area surrounding the marina in question, revealed the reservoir?s sediment delta will advance up to and beyond the marina in 2003. This will immediately render the marina useless in low water years, with access continuing to decline over time as the delta continues to expand.

Estimates for how long it will take sediment flows to reach the intake infrastructure for Glen Canyon Dam?forcing the dam?s decommissioning?range from 50 to 150 years. But as noted in the submission, geologists point out that any number of factors could cause the large amounts of sediment building-up in the upper part of the watershed to mobilize and rapidly flow into Lake Powell, thus greatly accelerating the rate of siltation and hastening the arrival of the day when Lake Powell reservoir must be drained.

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Last Update: October 30, 2007

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