Posts Tagged ‘Colorado River Storage Project’

Glen Canyon Portfolio 2

March 17th, 2011

Glen Canyon Portfolio 2

Photographer’s Comment From The Original Vintage Black And White Glen Canyon Portfolio

Continued from the blog post, “Glen Canyon Portfolio 1.”

By Philip Hyde

Reflections, Fronds Gelees Canyon, Glen Canyon, Utah, 1962 by Philip Hyde. From the original Glen Canyon Portfolio.

(See the photograph full screen Click Here or view the entire Glen Canyon Portfolio. The first 20 images are from the original Glen Canyon Portfolio. The photographs that follow those are scans of the other best 8X10 vintage black and white prints.)

It is ironic that Glen Canyon has come to be known as the “place no one knew.” It was well known by those tireless engineers of the 1930s and 1940s who combed the West searching out all possible dam sites. It was known by the National Park Service as early as the 1930s when a proposal was made for an Escalante National Park to Harold Ickes, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Secretary of Interior. Such a park would have encompassed all of Glen Canyon and many of its tributaries, but the proposal succumbed to the ambitions of the dam builders, as was revealed when the Park Service published Survey of the Recreational Resources of the Colorado River Basin in 1950. The survey lists all the potential dam sites and accompanying “recreational” plans, while potential areas for preservation are conspicuously absent. It is only fair to say here, that while the Park Service knew Glen Canyon’s qualities, its voice for preservation was stifled in the Interior Department where the Bureau of Reclamation had become the powerful tail that wagged the dog.

Glen Canyon was also known by legions of Boy Scouts who kayaked or rafted through and by hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people who went through and on their own (anyone could, for Glen Canyon’s Colorado River was mild) or with early professional river runners like Moki Mac, Georgie White, Bus Hatch, Pat Reilly, and others. The place wasn’t unknown. Its partisans just couldn’t be heard over the roar of political power.

It may seem further irony to some that while Glen Canyon went down the drain, another area survived because it had a boundary line drawn around it.

When the bill to authorize the Upper Colorado River Storage Project was in Congress, it was opposed by conservationists and actually stopped, temporarily. As constituted then, it would have authorized two dams in Dinosaur National Monument at Echo Park and in Split Mountain, in addition to Flaming Gorge dam on the Green River just north of Dinosaur, Glen Canyon Dam, and several smaller projects.

It is important to note that conservation in the mid-1950s was far from the strong and united force it is today, and it seemed doubtful whether Glen Canyon and the two Dinosaur dams could have been kept out of the final project. The spectre of opening the national parks to dam projects must have heavily influenced the conservationists’ decision when they finally agreed to withdraw opposition to the Upper Colorado River Storage Project if the dams in Dinosaur National Monument were deleted. This done, Congress authorized the Project—a political decision made to build another big dam on a river that could not adequately supply the first one. The best that can be said for the loss of Glen Canyon is that more “big dam foolishness,” as Elmer Davis called it, eventually aroused enough opposition to help stop two more dams proposed for the Grand Canyon a few years later.

Though I consider Glen Canyon’s loss tragic, I am certain that had dams been authorized in Dinosaur National Monument, no national park area would have been secure. The precedent would have opened the gates to at least eight national park areas, including Grand Canyon, where Bureau of Reclamation or Corps of Engineers dam proposals were already on drawing boards.

As things worked out, the building of Glen Canyon dam became literally, the high water mark of the Bureau’s power, and it has receded ever since—for which lovers of the land everywhere can be grateful. –But not complacent; for old dam projects, like old soldiers, never die; they just lie low until revival looks safer.

The reservoir behind Glen Canyon dam has been called “the most beautiful man made lake in the world.” That should tell you something of the quality of the wild canyon when you realize what you see today is but a remnant.

The scenic climax of Glen Canyon was along the Colorado River and at, or near, the tributaries’ junctions with the river. Cutting down to the river’s base level, the small streams (and flash floods) created grottos and waterfalls, carved great vaulted chambers, and deeply incised meanders in the final plunge to the master stream. These places of magnificent rock sculpture were among the first to go when the reservoir started rising, and they now lie hundreds of feet under water. Gone are the river and stream edges softened by riparian vegetation—grass, moss, even large trees where enough soil accumulated—willows, gambel’s oak, cottonwood, box elder. Gone, too, is the remoteness and feeling of adventure, reduced to the commonplace of reservoir recreation by gasoline power, noise, and smoke.

Though Glen Canyon gave its name to the dam, it is like the name inscribed on a tombstone that can only hint at the life that was. So, this portfolio hints at what was, to trigger memory in those who knew and to celebrate the life and beauty that was there for those who didn’t know.

To read more about Glen Canyon see the blog post, “Glen Canyon Lament By Philip Hyde 1,” “Glen Canyon Lament By Philip Hyde 2,” and “Glen Canyon Lament By Philip Hyde 3.” To read what David Brower wrote about Glen Canyon go to, “Let The River Run Through It.” To read about the movement to remove dams see the blog post, “A River Will Run Through It.”

The first 20 images in the website portfolio are the same as the original Glen Canyon Portfolio. The photographs that follow those are scans of the other best 8X10 vintage black and white prints. Click on the title here: Glen Canyon Portfolio to view the images. Enjoy.

This series on the Glen Canyon Portfolio continued with the blog post, “Glen Canyon Portfolio 3.”

The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth Of Modern Environmentalism 7

December 13th, 2010

The Battle Heats Up to Save Dinosaur National Monument from Dams and Philip Hyde’s Photographs Begin to See More Use

(Continued from the previous blog post, “The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth of Modern Environmentalism 6.”)

Sculptured Boulders, Hells Canyon, Dinosaur National Monument, 1951 by Philip Hyde.

In early 1953, finally David Brower proposed a Sierra Club campaign against the two proposed dams in Dinosaur National Monument. The Sierra Club Board approved the campaign on the grounds that it was imperative to maintain the integrity of the National Park System. In May 1953 David Brower enlisted the donated services of Charles Eggert, a professional photographer, to make a quality film covering the river trips and promoting alternatives to the dams. Martin Litton, a pilot and Los Angeles Times editor and writer, who loved the outdoors and the Sierra from his youth, wrote a series of articles condemning the Colorado River Storage Project in the Los Angles Times. David Brower saw Martin Litton’s articles and convinced him to join the Sierra Club. Martin Litton then began to write articles for the Sierra Club Bulletin while continuing his editorial efforts with the Los Angeles Times.

This Is Dinosaur: Wallace Stegner, Philip Hyde and Martin Litton

In 1955 David Brower enlisted novelist and Stanford writing professor Wallace Stegner to write the forward and edit This Is Dinosaur: Echo Park Country and Its Magic Rivers. Philip Hyde’s photographs joined those of Martin Litton and others to illustrate the book. This Is Dinosaur: Echo Park Country and Its Magic Rivers was the first book ever published for an environmental cause. As a result, Wallace Stegner, who later won the Pulitzer Prize for his novel Angle of Repose, became a writer and spokesman for the Sierra Club, and as a land preservation advocate in general. The proposed dams in Dinosaur National Monument turned into a heated national debate in Congressional committees between development interests and an alliance of environmental coalitions including the Federation of Western Outdoor Clubs and the Council of Conservationists. David Brower and the Sierra Club gathered and led the coalition of various organizations.

The environmental coalition rallied the American people around the idea of maintaining the integrity of the National Park System by not allowing any development in Dinosaur National Monument. The Sierra Club used what would become its standard strategy of publicizing, initiating a letter-writing campaign and encouraging recreational use of the threatened area. In 1950, about 13,000 people visited Dinosaur and only 50 of those by river. In 1954 nearly 71,000 visitors showed up, and more than 900 rafted Dinosaur’s canyons. Philip Hyde’s photographs of Dinosaur National Monument appeared with articles in National Geographic, the Sierra Club Bulletin, Life and other national publications. Martin Litton on his own wrote a series of articles not only for the Los Angeles Times but after he became managing editor of Sunset Magazine. He wrote articles for Sunset Magazine and the San Francisco Chronicle on Dinosaur National Monument. Also independent from the Sierra Club, Bernard DeVoto wrote an article in the Atlantic Monthly that raised the national awareness about the Dinosaur controversy. As a result of these efforts Americans began to write letters and over 200 Members of Congress turned against the Colorado River Storage Project. A copy of This is Dinosaur landed on the desk of every member of the House, the Senate, most high-level management in the Department of Interior and newspaper editors nationwide.

The Glen Canyon Sacrifice

The Sierra Club maintained that the water storage and power generating capacity lost by eliminating the Dinosaur dams, could be made up downstream on the Colorado River by building the proposed Glen Canyon Dam higher. As David Brower’s team of volunteer engineers looked into the technical aspects, they calculated that the proposed Glen Canyon dam, if built higher, could store more water with less evaporation than the dams planned in Dinosaur National Monument. The Bureau of Reclamation argued that Echo Park would evaporate more than an enlarged Glen Canyon dam. David Brower’s team not only found errors in Bureau of Reclamation evaporation figures, but discovered flaws and miscalculations in the entire project. The proposed reservoirs in dry years would evaporate more water than they could store from wet years. Environmentalists ultimately won the battle to prevent dams in Dinosaur with the numbers that proved the economics unsound.

“They were trying to build so many dams to hold over storage from the wet years to the dry years that in the period it was held over it would have an enormous amount of evaporation and the water benefit would be negative,” David Brower said. “We were building excellent opposition to the whole project because its economics were now being shown to be faulty. Its hydrology—its engineering of the river—was becoming transparently faulty.” In the Congressional hearings David Brower used what he called ninth grade math to question the Bureau’s figures. “In the course of our looking into the project,” David Brower said at a water resources hearing in San Francisco, “We found it distressingly full of errors, contradiction, inconsistencies and very questionable arithmetic, which is slowly being admitted, item by item.”

Conservation Becomes Modern Environmentalism

In The History of the Sierra Club Michael Cohen said that a group of the leaders of conservation organizations, who called themselves the Council of Conservationists, accepted a donation from Edward Mallinckrodt, Jr., a longtime Sierra Club member and ran a full-page advertisement in the Denver Post on the eve of a meeting of the Upper Colorado River Basin development groups, who stood to gain from the building of the dams. The ad read, “Conservationists who have been leading this battle are NOT anti-reclamationists [not against dam building or against the Bureau of Reclamation], and are NOT fighting the principle of water use in the west.” It warned that their position was stronger than ever since the deficiencies of the proposal were now exposed, that the Dinosaur dams were “obviously extravagant” and “serve far more local political purposes than national economic purposes.” The ad further admonished that congressmen would have to explain an expensive, “controversial project far away,” in an election year. The campaign to save Dinosaur National Monument with it’s use of full-page advertisements coupled with a diverse strategy of publicity, a letter-writing campaign, Congressional lobbying and other political and activist tactics transformed conservation into modern environmentalism.

Congress rewrote the Upper Colorado Storage Project Bill without the dams in Dinosaur and inserted the phrase, “no dam or reservoir constructed under the authorization of this act shall be within any national park or monument.” The environmental groups withdrew opposition and the bill easily passed. David Brower and other conservation leaders afterward regretted that they did not continue opposition to the whole project and thereby save Glen Canyon. Martin Litton said, “If we hadn’t believed in ourselves, we never would have stopped the Dinosaur thing. If we had believed in ourselves enough, we would have stopped Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado River.” Wallace Stegner succinctly expressed that at the core of the controversy was the resource-based “development-minded corporate West.”

“Dinosaur was a great turning point in the Sierra Club’s interest and in other people’s interest in the canyon country,” Philip Hyde said. “The more people used the monument, the less power it gave the Bureau of Wreck-the-Nation. It was a turning point for them too. Before that they thought they had carte-blanche to go anywhere and do anything they wanted to, regardless of whether the area had been legally preserved or not. It also probably was a turning point in the use of rivers. People discovered that running rivers was great fun and a wonderful way to see the country. A few years later the Bureau reached for the Grand Canyon and got slapped down by letters and communications from all over the world.”

(CONTINUED IN THE BLOG POST, “The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth Of Modern Environmentalism 8.”)

 

The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth Of Modern Environmentalism 4

March 27th, 2010

Philip Hyde on Assignment in Dinosaur National Monument and the Setting for the Battle that Helped Launch the Modern Environmental Movement

(CONTINUED FROM BLOG POST, “The Battle Over Dinosaur 3“)

The View From Roundtop, Dinosaur National Park, Utah-Colorado, 1951 by Philip Hyde.

“Next we knew, gas was gushing from the wound and my worst fears seemed realized as I recalled what people said about such a predicament. But the Ranger came dashing up in his green Charger, pulled us up the hill and led Champion still bleeding profusely up to the Mantle Ranch.”

Charlie Mantle provided a tub to catch the gas and reassured the Hydes that he could fix the tank with his soldering outfit. Philip Hyde and Charlie Mantle removed the gas tank and carried it over to Charlie Mantle’s lean-to outdoor shop. “He said he would take care of the rest,” Dad continued, “He said to go on inside and he would fix it before we left. Ardis and I went in to visit with Evelyn Mantle and the two kids that were there.”

One of Dad’s pictures shows Charlie Mantle’s Castle Park house with the landscape architect’s jeep parked in front. Dad took a dozen or more documentary and landscape photographs while waiting. Some of the photographs show the round castle-like buttes across the river, the inspiration for the name Castle Park. Charlie Mantle fixed the tank in just a few hours but he allowed Ardis and Philip Hyde to look around the area extensively. Today it takes a river raft or a four-wheel-drive vehicle to reach Castle Park. The road to Castle Park was not the only harrowing road experience the young couple went through to see the country.

Dad told me about his one day trip up Roundtop Peak, one of the highest peaks in the monument, which rises above the Yampa River. Dad and Mom rode with “Boon” MacKnight, a local construction company owner and the monument’s maintenance man. Boon’s mission was to install fire lookouts. Roundtop is 8,575 feet in elevation and the river at Echo Park is 5,079 feet above sea level. Roundtop is almost 3,500 feet above the Yampa River and offers an excellent view of the whole Dinosaur canyon country. In another letter addressed to ‘Dick’ Leonard, Dad wrote:

We arrived up there around noon and the light was rather mediocre. We were there quite a while though getting antennas, etc, up and around 2:00 pm it began to get cloudy. I really should give you a little background—such as the many stories we’d heard about these dirt-clay roads when wet and the cloudbursts that one could expect in this country—So when the rain started pelting the little tent-house roof we could let our imaginations go a long way. After about an hour it cleared up, but Boon wouldn’t leave until he was sure the radio worked. Four o’clock came and no success and 4:30 brought another hour of pelting rain and greater doubts about our return. But when it cleared those ideas were quickly driven out of my head when I went outside and looked toward the Yampa River canyons, now shining in that beautiful, warm, late sunlight with long shadows. Here and there among the canyons white wisps of cloud were trying to make their way back to the sky. If I had ordered a perfect set of conditions it could not have been better. My shutters were literally smoking or steaming when I got through. The ride that followed down the mountain over clay-mud roads for some two and a half hours was an experience I don’t think Ardis and I will ever forget. It was one of those experiences you wouldn’t miss for the world, but would debate a long time before taking on again. But for the excellent driving and judgment of Boon MacKnight we would probably have slept that night on the mountain or maybe met some worse fate. But bring us through he did—over some 50 miles of sliding, slipping, sloshing, muddy morass. A paved highway has never meant quite so much, and I’m sure never will, as that black ribbon of firmness meant that night.

The canyon country mud irritates eyes, rubs into the pores of skin, cakes under fingernails and sticks in the pockets of clothes. The rivers of the Southwest are heavy laden with it, which is why the dams of the Colorado River system are each filling with silt from the upper end. Even as little as five years after Glen Canyon Dam backed up “Lake” Powell downstream from Dinosaur National Park on the Colorado River, at the reservoir’s upper end miles of mud flats had already accumulated. Dams in the Southwest are like giant strainers, slowing the water down and allowing the finest mud in the world to settle out.

Besides the disadvantage of creating vast silt beds, of degrading surrounding habitats and many other harmful environmental impacts, even the economic soundness of large dams world-wide has come into question, reports a study by the World Commission on Dams, a coalition of industry and environmental groups. The long-term viability of dams in the arid Colorado Plateau region is now especially doubtful as evaporation rates have proven much higher than anticipated by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. The Bureau of “Wreck-the-nation” as environmentalists called it, and the Army Corp of Engineers, were the two government organizations responsible for building an estimated 2.5 million dams in the United States, said Time Magazine. Every Engineer knows that all dams will eventually fill with silt. David Brower in For Earth’s Sake said the Bureau of Reclamation must have encouraged their engineers to pad figures to make the dams plausible.

David Brower believed in fighting all environmental destruction, but in the 1950s even conservation organizations like the Sierra Club, The Wilderness Society, National Audubon Society and the Izaak Walton League were in favor of some dams because in the post-World War II political climate they did not want to appear against progress. In the early days of modern environmentalism, the organizations opposed dams if they threatened to flood a National Park or an exceptionally beautiful landscape. Early environmentalists had little political power, but the Dinosaur battle changed all of that. The burgeoning movement discovered it could influence public opinion and move Congress with enough publicity, lobbying and letter writing.

The battle over the dams in Dinosaur National Monument centered on preserving the protected status of the National Park System. Because of this intent, an even greater loss occurred, that of the spectacular canyons and grottos of Glen Canyon downstream on the Colorado River. Glen Canyon was never protected by a National Park or Monument. Therefore, the majority of Sierra Club leaders who had never seen Glen Canyon considered it a worthy sacrifice to withdraw opposition to the proposed dam there, if dam proponents and Congress would guarantee the sanctity of the National Park System. Certain Sierra Club leaders, like Martin Litton, had seen Glen Canyon and called for the Sierra Club  and its allies to continue opposition to the many proposed dams of the entire Colorado River Storage Project. Martin Litton and others supported a proposal for an Escalante National Park before World War II and the later Dinosaur battle, but after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, the idea of an Escalante National Park remained in the background.

In the 1950s and 1960s, the two decades of peak dam construction in the United States, the government built dams mainly as pork barrel projects to provide jobs and financial stimulus to less developed areas of the country, explained Patrick McCully in Silenced Rivers: The Ecology and Politics of Large Dams. To begin with, the Dinosaur projects were the same. In recent years dam construction has declined world-wide, as the movement against dam building gains momentum. Time Magazine said that in the United States over 600 dams have been dismantled, including 175 this decade.

Dams in the Southwest interfere with several natural processes crucial to river ecosystems: Dams prevent the large floods that used to clean out brush and the overgrowth of weeds. Floods deposit fresh sand bars and form pools and small mudflats that provide breeding, feeding and spawning grounds for native species of fish, birds, reptiles and mammals, Jeffrey Mount wrote in California Rivers and Streams: The Conflict Between Fluvial Process and Land Use. The non-native and highly invasive Tamarack tree took hold since the end of the largest annual flows. None of the dams in the Colorado River Storage Project generate the level of electricity for which they were engineered. As Marc Reisner points out in Cadillac Desert, Reservoirs raise the salt content of the river and this effect compounds yearly, decreasing irrigated crop quality and yield. Hydropower is not even a clean energy, as scientists have discovered, because reservoirs emit green-house gases, Patrick McCully points out in Silenced Rivers: The Ecology and Politics of Large Dams.

In 1950, the same year the Korean War began, Oscar Chapman, Harry Truman’s Secretary of Interior, recommended congressional authorization for the Upper Colorado River Storage Project, which consisted of a dam at Echo Park, a few miles downstream from Steamboat Rock, and a dam at Split Mountain also on the Green River below the Dinosaur Quarry near the Monument’s southern boundary…

(CONTINUED IN THE NEXT BLOG POST IN THE SERIES, “The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth Of Modern Environmentalism 5.”)