August 1, 2016--Minimal impacts from loss of Powell power, canyon institute says (Grand Junction Sentinel)

A group that wants to see the restoration of Glen Canyon and draining of Lake Powell says a new study shows such actions would have minimal impacts from the resulting loss of hydropower. The Glen Canyon Institute says the study it commissioned found there would be negligible impact on the western power grid and electric rates would go up by an average of 8 cents per month for residential customers getting at least some hydropower from Glen Canyon Dam. The organization had the study done to answer questions about possible impacts of its Fill Mead First proposal. Glen Canyon Institute argues that with Lake Powell and Lake Mead at about half storage capacity, and predictions that they won’t fill again because of a warming and drying West, Powell should be drawn down to fill Mead and restore portions of Glen Canyon, while allowing Powell’s use for backup in flood years. The study, led by consultant Thomas Power, also a research professor and professor emeritus in the University of Montana Department of Economics, said losing the dam’s hydropower would increase electricity costs by $16.31 million, but the impact would spread among 3.2 million customers. The average annual value of the electricity from the dam is $153.3 million, less than half a percent of the total sales value from electric generation in the western grid, which could readily absorb that lost power, the study found. Lost revenue would be partly made up by nearly $40 million annually derived from increased hydropower at Hoover Dam in Lake Mead from the increased water from Powell, and from conserved water that otherwise seeps into the ground underlying Lake Powell. Discontinuing dam operations also would save about $35 million a year in management costs.

The study’s release comes as western Colorado’s Colorado River District is studying how likely it is that Powell may fall below a level at which it can keep producing power. River district official Chris Treese says losing that power would have a larger impact on agricultural users. He said if the dam isn’t torn down, money still would be needed to operate it, even if the water level is too low to generate power. In addition, the power revenues fund repayment for Powell and other storage projects, salinity control projects in the Colorado River Basin, and endangered fish recovery. Eric Balken, executive director of Glen Canyon Institute, said normalizing river flows through Glen and Grand canyons would greatly benefit endangered fish. The river district’s chief concern is preserving Powell to store enough water to fulfill obligations for Colorado River deliveries by upstream states to downstream states under an interstate compact, including in dry years. The institute says that water can be stored in Mead and credited to upstream states. To view the full article visit the Grand Junction Sentinel.