Environmentalists Want Glen Canyon Dam Removed, But Is That Possible?

By Courtney Mally

PAGE – The Bureau of Reclamation finished Glen Canyon Dam in 1963, obliterating one of the most spectacular red-rock canyons in the Southwest and altering the flow of the mighty Colorado River.

The concrete-arch dam, just south of the Arizona-Utah line, was first proposed in the 1940s to store water and produce electricity for Western states. Initial plans were to dam the Green River, a major tributary of the Colorado, but that would have flooded Dinosaur National Monument in Utah, so planners turned to little-known Glen Canyon.

But the formation of Lake Powell behind the dam cooled the Colorado and reduced sediment flows downstream, making the water clearer and preventing the replenishment of fragile shoreline habitat. The sediment buildup eventually could interfere with the dam’s operations.

Environmentalists opposed Glen Canyon Dam even before it was built, and some now argue it should be dismantled regardless of the environmental and economic costs that could have. But others disagree, contending removal would be too costly and arguing that the dam has forever transformed the river from Page to the Grand Canyon, which lies to the southwest.

Economically, Page and nearby communities rely heavily on the dam’s operation and the tourist attractions and activities created by Lake Powell.

This story is part of Elemental: Covering Sustainability, a new multimedia collaboration between Cronkite NewsArizona PBSKJZZKPCCRocky Mountain PBS and PBS SoCal.

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Cronkite News is the news division of Arizona PBS. The daily news products are produced by the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.


  1. The “Enviro’s” now with poop patrol in downtown S.F. because the enviro-people living their can’t find a toilet… guess they need to open up another Starbucks

    • Dams save water for future use…something environmentalists don’t consider. California is drought and fire-ridden and has too many people who expect they’re entitle to have drinking water.

      • and their dams leak… perhaps build on fault lines, I suppose that match the entire state.. one big fault line that starts at the Arizona / California border

  2. Environmentalists also want to halt the Rosemont Copper project, but it isn’t going to happen.

  3. When environmentalists produce convincing evidence that they can deliver water to my faucets, electricity to my appliances, and economic productivity to our communities, I may be willing to listen to them seriously. But as long as their solution is for me to crawl into a cave, they can shut up.

    • the power solution is simple, Northern Arizona Yellow cake from the mine, produce some Uranium a new local plant, open a another nuclear generation station using Colorado River water as the cooling water source.. generate the power and tear down the dam – no problem. I think it’s a win win for the power producers, the miners, the local economy, the power users now able to grow the region ‘eco’nomically put in a few free way for all the new business development and shhhaaaazzzammmm all done. NEXT!

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