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Glen Canyon NRA Releases EA on Castle Rock Cut Deepening


National Park Service officials want to cut through 35 feet of bedrock to deepen the "Castle Rock Cut," which has been high and dry since 2003. Friends of Lake Powell photo.

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area officials want to spend roughly $750,000 to deepen the so-called "Castle Rock Cut" so boaters can gain quicker access to the main reservoir of Lake Powell from Wahweep Bay.

Under the environmental assessment released today, NRA officials plan to deepen the cut by 35 feet over a five-year period. The channel was originally excavated to an elevation of 3,622 feet in the 1970s to allow boats to traverse the cut at a lake level of 3,627 feet or higher, and then down to 3,615 feet in 1993.

However, continued drought in the Southwest has made the cut impassable continuously since 2003, according to the Park Service. Without that short cut, boaters have had to run 12 miles through Antelope Canyon to reach Warm Creek Bay and other up-lake destinations.

To address this detour, the Park Service wants to deepen the cut down to an elevation of 3,580 feet, a project that would entail removing approximately 400,000 cubic yards of Navajo sandstone bedrock.

This has been a somewhat controversial topic on the Traveler. Just read the comments that were appended to the initial post when Glen Canyon officials voiced this proposal back in November. However, during the public comment period far and away those who took the time to comment were in favor of deepening the cut.

Approximately 1,470 responses (out of roughly 1,630 received) were in favor of the project, stating that proceeding with the project would improve boater safety, particularly when passing through the Channel; reduce fuel and boat maintenance costs; reduce emissions; reduce water and air pollution caused by boats traveling uplake via the longer route through the Channel; reduce travel time to uplake destinations; and benefit the local economy.

... Approximately 149 responses were opposed to the project, in general stating that the project
would violate NPS mandates; favor one group of recreationists (i.e., boaters versus hikers,
birdwatchers, etc.); create pollution and cause damage to the lakeshore to effect a short-term
solution to a temporary drought; be a waste of taxpayer money and park economic resources;
harm threatened or endangered species and other natural resources; and negatively impact the
aesthetic and backcountry values of Glen Canyon NRA.

Of course, if this winter's heavy snowpack is repeated next winter, there might not be a need to deepen the cut. But Park Service statisticians don't think that will be the case. According to their estimates, there's only a 60 percent chance that Lake Powell's surface elevation will reach 3,620 feet on September 30 -- typically the high-water mark during the year -- during the years 2008-2012, and only a 62 percent chance if you run that out to 2017.

At the same time, they say there's only a 40 percent chance that the lake's elevation will stand at 3,620 feet on March 30 -- typically the year's low-water mark -- during the years 2008-2012. That possibility rises to only 50 percent if you run that out to 2017.

(The probabilities based on 100 modeling runs using inflow and lake level elevation data from 1906 to 2005. Model does not take into account potential long-term climate change, including global warming. Modeled elevations are based on existing and target excavation depths, with 5 feet added as a minimum freeboard for passage of houseboats and personal watercraft (Reclamation 2007c).)

The Park Service will take comments on this plan through March 20. You can submit yours at this site.


This is the problem with going back to the NPS mandate. Glen Canyon is a national *recreation* area. Perhaps the recreation areas should be evaluated as to whether they belong under the park service's purview at all, so that recreational users can enjoy them uninhibited.

Normally I am dead set against big projects in the parks for the purposes of recreation... but Lake Powell is different. It is unlike anything I've ever seen, it is spectacular, and it should be on everyones list of 100 places to go before you die. I am for this project 100% - make the lake as accessable as possible!

Marylander -- I personally think that Glen Canyon should be on the list of everyone's list of 100 places to see before you die. Oh that's right, no one can see Glen Canyon because it's under hundreds of feet of water. I say make Glen Canyon as accessible as possible -- bring back Hayduke and take down that dam!

This decsion-so called seems apparent of another politcal ploy to waste more money to meet the needs of the so called recerationists and their power vehicles to ruin the natural habitat which is the over all concern and goal of the natl park service not some uncontrolled snut noseed recerationist who want to have their own way and destroy the envioriment ion the process.

Boaters are harming the lake more now that they have to travel an extra 12 miles to get up the lake from Wahweap. Cutting the short cut will allow boaters to access the rest of the lake without burning as much fuel to get there. So all in all the cut would help rather then hinder. And moving a little bit of lake bed isn't destroying the lake or its beauty, its lake bottom for crying out load!!!! Cut away!!!!

The "natural environment"?!?!?

It's hardly a natural environment. A giant, artificial lake in the desert has nothing natural about it.

If you want to preserve the natural environment, tear down the dam. If not, save it as a place for recreation.

Oh my GOD!!!! will you people get a life the dam is not going anywhere and thank god. if it wasn't there the water wouldn't be there to drink or grow food. as for recreation i love boating on lake powell and all you people out there with your so called enviro cars where do you think the elec comes from, the dam! it is dirt just dirt you know what the bottom looks like it looks like the top once again dirt. you wanna hike then hike away why do you have to make everyone misriable because you wanna hike somewhere you can't (the bottom) you know what i wanna boat everywhere so i say lets cover it all up so i can boat. why not, because it wouldn't be fair so get off your high horse and let us (the majority that is what this country was founded on) go out and play with our sea doos and our house boats and enjoy life with a motor or a sale or even a kayak! as far as i am concerened hiking causes more damage than boats so stay at home and search the web. oh without electricity because that is where the power comes from remeber the DAM!

I am a firm believer in leaving as much of the earth in a natural state as possible(without a viable biosphere we are all toast). If the dam were not there I would be lobbying to stop it. But the dam is there. The lake is unnatural, but it is also one of the wonders of the world! The damage is done! Enjoy what we have, the lake is amazing. Glen Canyon is only a memory now, and will remain so for our life time. Moving a few hundred thousand cubic feet of sand stone, is nothing in the big scheme. Yes, for the Castle Rock Cut. Geologically the area is eroding at a very fast pace because the stone is soft. Someday there will be a concrete plug where the canyon walls have softened and eroded around the dam, and there will be no Lake Powell. But none of us will see it. If there is a man made grove in the rock in some obscure place, it will only be a curiosity to those who pass by. If there is anyone left to pass by.

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