Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Dams: Kanab 1961: Deja Vu All Over Again

Kanab's last race, with LADWP and Reclamation taking turns as jockey, had a surreal quality. No one was seriously proposing to begin the battle to gain authorization of a Marble-Kanab tunnel hydropower project. The proponents hoped only to show that it was too good an alternative to an Arizona-built Marble power dam to be ignored. Yet, arguments for it were fatally tinged with fantasy just because no one could, seriously, propose it. Yet, it was such a seductive dream for the dam dreamers, they all were willing to see it trotted out, the ultimate element of a total conquest of the lower Colorado River. What if, these engineer romantics  with their plans and charts enthused… ; if only …
LADWP put California money and manpower into an updated Kanab scheme in order to have something to offer in the 1961 FPC proceedings that would slow the APA momentum for a Maarble dam license. This was a time of re-grouping, as a new, Democratic, administration came into power, after eight Eisenhower years. It was to be young & vigorous, with new directions, and certainly Stewart Udall as Secretary of the Interior fit that bill. So as the FPC process ground along with its glacial momentum in 1960-1, the new-comers were trying to figure out how to proceed, given that a key element -- the final decision in Arizona v. California -- was still a couple of years away. Even aside from that, all the participants except Arizona, which was deeply split, did not want the APA to be granted a license for Marble.  All aside from the APA partisans in Arizona wanted the lower Colorado to continue to be developed by federal agencies under federal Reclamation law. So in this time of uncertainty, it must have been a relief that the LADWP was willing to belly forth into the spotlight, touting Kanab, fantasy or no. 

LADWP presented its case in the hearings on the APA's application 2248 with testimony and exhibits dated 21 June 1961. Ivan Bateman testified as LADWP's power system chief since 1953. He started with typical LADWP oneupmanship: the 1945 Reclamation study was outmoded by a new concept -- a doubled capacity power plant for peaking power. This 2,000 mw was four times the capacity of APA's Marble. 

Physically, it was a vision for the industrialization of the Kaibab Plateau and Arizona Strip. Marble dam and reservoir, with all its attendant access and construction impacts would lead into a 44-mile tunnel. There would be an access shaft in North Canyon, on the Kaibab's eastern slope. Tunnels, adits flushing spoil and excess water, would come out in Tapeats, Fishtail, and a side canyon between them. The tunnel would branch as it neared Kanab Creek, leading to an impounding dam 4+ miles up Kanab and an "underground" power house on the right bank near its mouth. Here's a map:

and tunnel sketches:

However, further study might show that the scheme would be better with powerplants or reservoirs in Tapeats and Fishtail. The Park would get its ounce of flash: a river of 1000 sec-ft for to glitz up the scenery.

Transmission lines would go back along the route, swinging a bit north to bypass the GCNP boundary, before picking up power from the 30 mw plant at the dam and joining the system lines from Glen Canyon dam. A more important set of lines would go west from Kanab across the Strip, turning south to run along the Shivwits Plateau and dropping to Bridge dam to join that new mess running electricity to the Hoover junction. 
Construction and access roads, paved and unpaved, would network the Strip. A townsite would have been inevitable. There would have been extensive direct damage in and near the Tapeats-Kanab region. Bateman's testimony did not go into such details. He piggy-backed on the APA proposal as he could, even saying the Kanab Creek dam would be "similar in design" to Marble, but even higher, perhaps 450', with a 300,000 acre-foot reservoir. The flow through the powerplant would be 29,000 sec-ft. He boasted that this project would deliver even more power to Arizona than its own Marble. And, yes, it would be built by the Bureau of Reclamation. 

LADWP's tunnel expert used the sketchy geology from Reclamation's 1945 fly-by report, substituing his "expertise" for field investigation. He described typical sections of the tunnel, some with "rock bolting", some requiring steel supports; there were diameters from 36' to 50'. He doubted there would be excesssive water found. In any case, there was much to be learned about the area, so further study should be given. He was thus able to turn his ignorance and lack of work on this fantasy to the advantage of those who wanted to further stall the APA.

In the live cross examination, the FPC lawyer was both aggressive and even hostile. He got Bateman to admit that LADWP had approached Reclamation, and more than once; that they were not independent studies, although Bateman pushed the idea that the two-dam peaking power scheme with a bent tunnel was better than Reclamation's earlier straight tunnel.  He admitted that fluctuations below the powerplant could range from 1 to 30 thousand cfs, which would be ok, once Bridge would be in place. Testimony over power output was confused and testy. There was discussion of what would happen if the tunnel failed, and LADWP suggested there could be two. The APA questioning concentrated on the possible infeasibility of Kanab.

Operation of Kanab envisioned running the plant about 11 hrs each day, drawing down the reservoir, and then re-filling it on weekends. There had been a field trip with Reclamation in June. By helicopter. Various barbs were exchanged over the FPC lawyer's ignorance of the area. They even argued, as if they cared, over whether there should be a re-regulating dam, and the impact on the Monument. 

They discussed the timing of construction of the dam and the tunnel. Would Marble's reservoir interfere with starting the east end of the tunnel? What about vibrations from blasting? The suggestion was made that there could be still another adit, to dump spoil in Buck Farm Canyon. One listing of roads put them from North Canyon to the dam, others to the Kanab dam, to the powerhouse at Kanab-Colorado junction, to Big Saddle and down Indian Hollow, to Fishtail, Tapeats, and following the contour up Deer Creek. [They failed to suggest there could be a commuter bus to drop and pick up hikers.] No mention was made about access roads to put in transmission lines. However, no roads at all were offered on the eastern, Navajo, side of Marble. The construction camps with a main town, including schools, could be near the Kaibab Lodge. 

Finally, the discussion brought out that there had never been a tunnel of this diameter under this much ground at this much length, and with such a distance between the working faces. The tunneler admitted the lack of information and his ignorance of the geology, even of existing reports. Infeasibility could come through bad faulting or the water table being higher than expected. As weakness in testimony came out, testiness increased. The tunnel expert believed there would be solutions to all objections. 

As I wrote in an earlier post, all this testimony became a target for the FPC examiner, who treated it like the only alternative to APA's Marble, and dismissed it when he recommended that APA get its license. However, Reclamation had also been working on Kanab in 1961, at LADWP's request. In February, the Washington office was told that while new reports on Bridge and the CAP would be feasibility grade, there would also be a reconnaissance of Kanab. Material had been sent by LADWP to Reclamation in May and July, with the study started after a contract was signed with LADWP in July. This, too, would be a peaking project, and other assumptions were also similar to LADWP's, Indeed, the latter's FPC testimony was used, as well as a confidential (since Reclamation was not supposed to be doing Kanab studies) 1953 field trip report. However, Reclamation worried about silt build-up, so it added a Paria dam. The Chief Engineer's office was given six weeks to do their recon.

By August, two schemes had been worked up, one direct to Kanab, the other with a powerplant at mile 138.5. The Bright Angel formation at the junction would require caissons, so a plant upstream might be better. There was worry about leakage in the Redwall limestones, and temperatures at 6300' of over 150 degrees. Data were meagre. Reclamation did not even bother to try to estimate how much groundwater would be encountered. Nor did it work out a transmission scheme because of the many uncertainties. A staged construction was considered to spread out the cost. 

Reclamation's Memorandum Report on Kanab is dated October 1961. It offered, as justification for violating the 1949 Secretarial order, that LADWP's testimony brought out the need for further consideration of Kanab, which led LDAWP to ask Reclamation to look at "probable feasibility". There was [still] no field work on the tunnel, Kanab dam, or the powerplant. Geologic information was also "meager". The parameters in this new? study were all similar to LADWP's, except that Paria and Kanab silt traps were considered, and transmission not. 

Reclamation assumed there would be coordination with Glen so that there could be a uniform flow in the tunnel. Again, the data for the 450' Kanab dam were called "meager". As with the LADWP scheme, water could be drawn from both Kanab and Marble reservoirs for peak power. The resulting energy generated was only 4% different from LADWP's. The tunnel would come out in Kanab at about 2800' elevation. The spoil dump would be in Deer Creek, instead of Tapeats. The underground power plant was set at 138.5 mile. The Paria dam would be 328' high 23 miles up from its junction. There would be several structures to hold silt on Kanab Creek. And all this in only 12 years. 

The alternate of a powerplant in the Bright Angel at Kanab's mouth was rejected, until further study could be done. 

Reclamation concluded that this "comprehensive" project "appeared practicable" to build. The power demand would exist to make it economically & financially feasible. It would not "visibly" encroach on the boundaries of the Park, and a scenic flow would be maintained of a clear stream suitable for a trout fishery. The FPC didn't give a yawn. 

And that copy-cat report, my friends, was the last gasp from the dreamers of Kanab, as they rolled over and woke up to the realities of the 1960's.

Sources: Los Angeles Department of Water and Power
Bureau of Reclamation, Boulder City and Denver
Arizona Power Authority

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