Cortez Masto’s dam support

Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto has been trumpeting her support for Glen Canyon Dam, the ecological monstrosity that destroyed a magnificent natural resource and continues to do major damage to the environment.

In a statement, the attorney general said, “Nevada has an interest in the operation of Glen Canyon Dam as it has an effect on power generation and quality of water in Lake Mead.” The dam is located just south of the Arizona/Utah border upstream from Hoover Dam.

Actually, Nevada—like other Western states—has an interest in seeing Glen Canyon Dam torn down, in part because it is compromising water quality in Lake Mead.

The intervention of Cortez Masto in a lawsuit involving the dam is over more limited issues, but they all play into the issue of whether the dam should stand at all.

The Grand Canyon Trust filed a lawsuit on Dec. 7, accusing the federal government of mismanaging the dam for the benefit of power utilities.

Before being dammed in 1963, the river flow naturally cleansed sandbars, slowing autumn flows. Since the construction of the dam, which flooded the marvelous Glen Canyon (imagine flooding Grand Canyon), the habitat has changed, non-native plants and fish have been introduced, and native fish populations declined sharply.

The feds have been forced to try to make artificial floods through heavy water releases to duplicate the natural flooding needed to protect the canyon’s ecology. The Trust accuses the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation of bungling releases as to timing and water quality and quantity and the use of unnatural temperatures, with the result that downstream Grand Canyon loses needed nutrients.

Even worse, electricity revenue from the dam is used for additional diversions from the Colorado River.

This is the second such lawsuit. The feds settled the first one, but the problem is not going away.

Cortez Masto’s intervention risks conveying the notion that Nevadans support the mismanagement of the dam and the dam’s continuing damage to the environment, as when KTNV posted a news story on Cortez Masto headlined, “Nevada opposes environmental group in lawsuit over Glen Canyon Dam.”

To Cortez Masto’s concern about Lake Mead, the Sierra Club’s Adam Werbach responds in congressional testimony: “Hoover Dam and Lake Mead can continue to regulate the river and produce power. Glen Canyon Dam doesn’t do anything different than Hoover and Mead in that regard, but it does drown a unique natural treasure and destroy an ecosystem which we can still uncover and restore. The water saved by reduced evaporation and seepage from Lake Powell will add water supply back into the system. The power generation lost from Glen Canyon Dam can be replaced by natural gas or conservation elsewhere, and the cost spread over the rate base of the Western power grid should not be prohibitive.”

The sooner various federal and state officials stop trying to jury-rig and tinker with Glen Canyon Dam to make it work right and admit that it was a mistake all along, the better. A gift of good example comes from Barry Goldwater, who shortly before his death admitted he had been wrong to support the dam:

“I’d vote against it. I’ve become convinced that, while water is important, particularly for those of us who live in the desert, it’s not that important.”