On The Colorado


A Legal History of Operations at Glen Canyon Dam
by John Weisheit

1. $36,000 a day?
So I am wondering from the opening paragraph of this article....where does the $36,000. coming from? Does it cost the US 36,000 per day to operate glen canyon dam? Or, is the $36,000. figure operational cost with added water daily revenue lost from evaporation? And if the figure is the later, what is the daily average operational cost of Glen Canyon dam? anyone know? thanks annie

Posted on August 14, 2009 by cataractannie

2. $10,000,000 per year
Dear cataractannie,

The former commissioner of Reclamation, Floyd Dominy, called Glen Canyon Dam a "cash register dam," because that is what it is--a cash cow of hydropower revenue. When the reservoirs are full, that is. They say that hydropower needs no fuel, which is true, but an empty reservoir does not make any electricity and a half-full reservoir doesn't make enough to pay the bills.

The hydropower money pays for the building of 30+ projects in the upper Colorado River basin and it pays the salaries of the federal employees that manage and oversee their operations.

The money for the Adaptive Management Program that is supposed to fix the Grand Canyon, but doesn't, comes from federal hydropower revenues and has consistently averaged about ten million dollars per year, hence the rounded figure of $36,000 per day.

This is only one of four federal programs to recover endangered species on the Colorado River. Since there is no recovery in sight for these critters, this amounts to having a mortgage that never gets paid off. Actually its more like a fine that is never paid off, or a prison term without parole.

Federal hydropower also pays for the Salinity Control Program, which would not be required if not for the cumulative evaporation of having too many useless reservoirs, and because the soils and rocks of the Colorado Plateau are just plain too salty.

Other hidden costs include what other people, agencies and corporations have to pay for when Lakes Mead and Powell drop in elevation because of drought and climate change. Costs such as the closing a boat marina, pouring more concrete to extend a boat ramp, or cutting a shortcut canal through a pennisula that is no longer submerged.

Think about your grandchildren when they get the multi-billion dollar bill to remove sediment from the reservoirs of the muddiest river in North America. Sediment occupies reservoir space and eventually you can't store water and you can't perform flood control. This happens before the reservoir completely fills with sediment, not after.

Think about how bad the water quality will be during the clean-up. How much it is gonna cost to purify the water and to replace the hot water heater and the corroded plumbing and such. Those are hidden costs of "green" federal hydropower.

Tragically, part of the myth surrounding the benefits of hydropower facilities includes ignoring the full spectrum of costs, or cradle to grave economics.

Posted on August 18, 2009 by coloradoriverkeeper

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