Letter to the Editor: Rebuttal to rebuttal on ‘Fill Mead First’

LETTER TO THE EDITOR – Water Managers Ron Thompson and Don Christiansen offered a short sighted rebuttal to Glen Canyon Institute’s Fill Mead First proposal. This rebuttal fails to interpret the peer reviewed hydrological research and the underlying logic of Fill Mead First. Lake Powell and Lake Mead sit half empty. Glen Canyon Dam hydropower production is projected to be 38 percent below capacity in 2014. Las Vegas has declared a state of emergency. And it is only going to get worse.

The only certainty in the new normal of climate change on the Colorado River is that continuing our current path of mismanagement and expecting different results is truly insane. As we seek solutions to the impending crisis we must re-examine our broken system and pursue new paths based on scientific analysis. The Colorado River storage system was developed in the age of dams. Consequences to ecosystems below the dam in the Grand Canyon were not fully understood. Availability of Colorado River water was even less understood.

Glen Canyon Dam was the Upper Basin’s response to “protect” our water resources. So how is that working for us? Recent peer reviewed research demonstrates that storing water in this leaky basin results in a net loss of 300,000 acre-feet of water annually due to seepage. Our Lake Powell bank account is losing 2 percent of its value every year. Is this protecting our future or gross mismanagement of a finite resource?

The Fill Mead First plan can be a part of the solution to the crisis we face. Despite the imaginary division of upper and lower Colorado River basins, the Colorado is only one river. A shortage anywhere on the river, has impacts on the entire basin. The time to come to the table and discuss possible solutions is now, while there is still room to negotiate.

Water managers in Utah regularly invoke the bogeyman of the lower basin intent on stealing our water. Yet, they have not crafted any strategic tactic beyond development of existing rights for wasteful water projects to be built at any cost. Implementation of a Fill Mead First protocol would be a step towards adoption of a basin wide water ethic built upon net gain solutions. Negotiations could be made that would provide Utah with significant ongoing benefits in exchange for the stability of Lake Mead elevations. Fill Mead First is not a “surrender” of Utah’s water – it is a strategic advance towards system stability.

Utah’s “best interests” are being looked out for by a small group of vested interests. These interests have just recently embraced the reality of climate change. They ignore the Bureau of Reclamations’ study showing the river is grossly over allocated. They rely on a make-believe Colorado Basin division to protect our resources in the face of crisis. This is not a strategy for success, only maintenance of the status quo. Ignoring science and strategy at this critical time is not in Utah’s best interest.

Submitted by Christi Wedig, Executive Director | Glen Canyon Institute

Email: [email protected]

–––Twitter: @STGnews

Letters to the Editor are not the product of St. George News, its editors, staff or news contributors. The matters stated and opinions given are the responsibility of the person submitting them. They do not reflect the product or opinion of St. George News and are given only light edit for technical style and formatting.



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  • Devoid October 11, 2013 at 9:50 am

    This emotional piece is not very informative.

    There is some “peer-reviewed” document out there somewhere, someone estimates “seepage” (whoever claimed the reservoir is watertight in the first place?) but we don’t know who, and, all the water agreements are out of date, we say.

    Ron Thompson may be a shameless booster of the “system”, but if opposition to current water policy is to be successful, it has the be more cogent than “it hasn’t snowed much the last few years and we ‘re all doomed”.

  • skippy October 11, 2013 at 6:39 pm

    If by “emotional” Devoid means the exaggerated rhetoric and the overall “I-know-better-than-you-because-I-have-a-study-that-conflicts-with-yours” and “Your-head-is-stuck-in-the-sand-that-once-was-fertile” attitude, then he or she has captured the essence of this editorial. Note that I don’t have a strong opinion on this issue (clearly climates are changing as they do, but for the “better” or “worse” I’m unwilling to pretend to know.)

    But like Devoid, I’m struck by the loose, if not reckless, way the author relays her perspective. Notice the hyperbole: “And [water scarcity] is only going to get worse” / ignoring the FMF proposal is “truly insane” / “the crisis we face” / “while there is still time to negotiate” / “wasteful water projects to be built at any cost” / “this critical time.” This is the sort of bluster that should send any person running for cover. But perhaps I’m truly nuts, whatever that means. (And how would the writer know what that condition consists of unless…?!)

    Add to this the snarky scare quotes that surround the opposition’s perspective on “best interests” compared to the writer’s certainty of the actual best interests (minus the scare quotes, of course) of folks who may or may not realize this! (Always easier to let someone else make up one’s mind, I suppose…)

    We need more informed and articulate perspectives on this issue. And minus all the posturing.

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