The Glen Canyon Institute’s Vision
For 17 years, Eric Balken has dedicated himself to the mission of the Glen Canyon Institute, a non-profit organization aiming to restore the free-flowing nature of the Colorado River through Glen Canyon and Grand Canyon. Their ambitious goal challenges the existence of Lake Powell as it currently stands, envisioning the rejuvenation of these canyons to their natural state.
The Environmental Consequences of Glen Canyon Dam
Constructed in 1963, Glen Canyon Dam was intended to store excess water in the Colorado River Basin. However, the dam’s construction led to the inundation of one of the most remarkable canyons in the United States. The Glen Canyon Institute highlights the significant environmental degradation caused by the dam, emphasizing the unforeseen consequences of water storage at the expense of natural ecosystems.
The Impact of Rising Water Levels
Recent wet winters have resulted in the rising water levels of Lake Powell, submerging previously dried-out areas. The visible changes in the glens and canyon walls after two decades of receding water levels are striking. Native flora, such as willows, cattails, and cottonwoods, have begun to thrive once again in the slot canyons, showcasing the resilience of nature when given the chance to rebound.
The Return of Life: Signs of Change
The Glen Canyon Institute closely monitors the reservoir and the restoration of life around it. Glen Canyon and its river tributaries are now teeming with flowing water and abundant greenery. The return of vibrant ecosystems demonstrates the remarkable transformation that can occur when water is allowed to flow freely, providing a glimpse of the potential benefits of restoring the Colorado River’s natural course.
Skipping Glen Canyon: A Bold Recommendation
The Glen Canyon Institute proposes a daring solution: redirecting water storage from Glen Canyon to Lake Mead. By bypassing Glen Canyon, they aim to preserve what they believe should be a national park and instead utilize Lake Mead for water storage. While acknowledging potential challenges and consequences, this recommendation opens up possibilities for future sustainable development and economic growth in the region.
The Potential Economic Benefits and National Park Development
Transforming Glen Canyon into a national park could have significant economic advantages, potentially turning Page, Arizona, into a thriving gateway community similar to Moab, Utah. National park communities often experience sustainable economic growth, and the Glen Canyon Institute believes that preparing for such opportunities is key. They anticipate a future where Lake Powell may no longer exist, but the development of a national park could bring long-term benefits to the region.
Monitoring and Appreciating the Revitalized Environment
Even if the transformation of Lake Powell never comes to fruition, the Glen Canyon Institute remains committed to monitoring the reservoir and the renewed life surrounding it. The organization celebrates the return of naturally flowing water and the abundance of life in Glen Canyon and its tributaries. This ongoing monitoring highlights the importance of preserving and appreciating the revitalized environment, underscoring the significance of the Glen Canyon Institute’s mission.
By prioritizing the restoration of a free-flowing Colorado River, the Glen Canyon Institute offers a unique perspective on the future of Lake Powell and the surrounding canyons. While their proposal is bold, it presents opportunities for environmental restoration, sustainable development, and the preservation of natural wonders for generations to come.