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Interior Department plans slight drop in Glen Canyon hydropower output for 20 years

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Interior Department plans slight drop in Glen Canyon hydropower output for 20 years

The U.S.Department of the Interior proposed a preferred alternative in itsenvironmental study of the long-term management plan for the Glen Canyon Damthat would slightly decrease average daily generation and result in a 6.7%decrease in firm capacity.

The alternative is detailed in the Oct. 7 release of a FinalEnvironmental Impact Statementfor the Long-Term Experimental and Management Plan, or LTEMP, for Glen CanyonDam operations.

The LTEMP will provide a framework for managing the 1,312-MWhydropower facility over the over the next 20 years with the goal of creatingcertainty and predictability for power and water users while protectingenvironmental and cultural resources in the Grand Canyon National Park and theColorado River ecosystem.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation owns the dam, which wascompleted in 1963 at Glen Canyon on the Colorado River upriver about 50 milesto the northeast of the Grand Canyon National Park. The dam has long beencontroversial, especially with environmentalists.

Compared with the no action alternative, the preferredalternative would result in a 1.1% decrease in average daily MWh of generation,a 0.12% increase in the cost of generation, a 3.12% increase in the cost ofcapacity, and a 0.29% increase in total cost to meet electric demand over the20-year plan period. This would also result in a 0.39% increase in averageretail electric rate and a 38-cent average monthly residential electricity billin the year of maximum rate impact.

However, the preferred alternative would result in an annualincrease in the "non-use value" of $4.49 billion at the nationallevel, which is the highest of all six action alternatives presented. Thatfigure is derived from a survey of respondents who were asked about theirwillingness to pay for the benefits of each alternative.

"They do surveys asking even if you never go to theGrand Canyon, for example, what value do you place on it being there,"Bureau of Reclamation spokesman Chris Watt said by phone. "Are you willingto pay a tax to keep it going even if you never make it there? It is the valuepeople place on it existing at all."

The environmental impact statement is the result of years ofanalysis of complex interests, needs and resources, while considering how theGlen Canyon Dam will continue to meet its purposes, including providing waterand power, while improving downstream resources and recreational experiences,Interior said in a press release.

This is the first environmental impact statement for GlenCanyon Dam since 1995. Interior's Bureau of Reclamation and National ParkService jointly led the study in coordination with three federal and sixnon-federal agencies and six American Indian Tribes.

Interior will issue a final record of decision following aminimum 30-day public review period to select the alternative that will beimplemented.