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91-year-old activist shares passion for Glen Canyon

Published: Wednesday, Nov. 3 2010 6:32 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — Song, memories and vivid pictures painted in the words of an award-winning author tell the story of a landscape lost to the waters of Lake Powell and a group of eclectic environmentalists fighting to restore a canyon to its grandeur.

Hosted by the Glen Canyon Institute, a small group gathered Wednesday at the Fort Douglas Officers Club for "An Afternoon With Katie Lee," a 91-year-old woman who still retains the vim and vigor of her fight to vanquish the so called "damned dam."

"I really think that within a couple of decades we will have our river again," Lee said, referencing the portion of the Colorado in Glen Canyon that was swallowed up in the massive project that began in 1963.

"I just think the dam is not going to hold that long," she said and noted that current pressures on the over-used Colorado and a dwindling Lake Mead may well combine to add more momentum to the group's cause.

Lee, whose list of credentials span that of folk singer, storyteller, actress, river runner and activist, isn't afraid to pepper her language with salt in describing a fierce passion for the area and her exploration of its multihued canyons.

It was that time carved out in a now-lost place that drove Lee to take on a new role — that of an ardent environmentalist who linked arms with others who shared a common cause.

Richard Ingrebretsen, president of the Glen Canyon Institute, talked of when the group was practically a group of just one, etching out a fledging course that soon grew to attract the support of the Sierra Club and others who describe the damming of the river and creation of Lake Powell as "America's Most Regretted Environmental Mistake."

"That was 15 years ago and things have changed dramatically," he said. "Western water is in crisis. … Water people are listening."

The afternoon discussion with Lee was a prelude to the institute's evening celebration of its 15th anniversary. Terry Tempest Williams, author and environmental advocate, was presented with the David R. Brower Conservation Award as part of the event.

Brower, nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize three times, was a co-founder of the institute.

e-mail: amyjoi@desnews.com

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