By Paula D. Barteau
Glen Canyon Dam, Page AZ
August 31, 2015
Glen Canyon Dam is a complicated dilemma.
It provides water and electricity to Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Colorado, and California. It generates hydroelectric energy that is much cleaner than coal, and more efficient than many clean energy alternatives, but the construction of a hydroelectric dam drastically alters the ecosystem of the river it harnesses. Sediment that used to provide camouflage and sustenance for many organisms downstream of the dam is now building up slowly filling Lake Powel and increasing pressure on the dam’s structure. The huge difference in depth on either side of the dam has changed the temperature of the water on either side, limiting what can survive in them. The dam interrupts the migratory routes of fish and consequently changes the availability of food for animal populations on both sides of the dam. The construction of Glen Canyon Dam involved the extension of existing highways, the construction of six different power plants, the founding of an entire town, and an uninterrupted stream of traffic through Dine land that lasted the six years it took to finish the dam.
Glen Canyon was home to multiple sacred sites of the Dine some of which are now under water, those that are not are now subject to increased tourist traffic. Most of them are not protected by any organization and have no public notifications or markers to keep tourists who do not realize their significance to Dine culture from desecrating them.
Some groups of people are organizing to get the dam taken down on the grounds of being unsustainable, illegal, and harmful to the environment. Five states depend on the dam for necessary resources and I don’t think it’s going anywhere, but it serves as a reminder that the lives we live are dependent on destructive forces that take and change the lives of others.
What does it take to live lives that don’t?