Glen Canyon Dam was hailed Saturday as a rare vision - a testimonial to the spirit and talents of those who conceived and built "the Colossus of the Colorado."
More than 600 people, seated and standing on the dam's crest, heard the project's praises sung by national officials and state dignitaries from Utah and Arizona in observance of the 25th anniversary of the impoundment of the waters of the Colorado River to create Lake Powell.The dam's construction "was the phasing together of great harmony between man and natural resources," said Peter MacDonald, chairman of the Navajo Nation, which borders the lake. Now the challenge is to work as hard to preserve the area as was done to create the dam and lake, he said.
Although Saturday's ceremonies celebrated the dam, the lake and their benefits, the project has its detractors. The impounded waters of Lake Powell covered a vast area and a maze of delicate desert canyons, swallowing beautiful Glen
Canyon, named by explorer John Wesley Powell in 1869, and many ancient Indian sites.
Officials, including law enforcement contingents from Utah and Arizona, were prepared for demonstrations by environmental groups, possibly even some radical protests, but all was calm.
Arizona Gov. Rose Mofford and U.S. Sen. Dennis DeConcini, D-Ariz., contributed to the program, but Utah Gov. Norm Bangerter and Utah's congressional contingent were not present. Utahns have often complained that almost all of the tourism and financial benefits of the dam and the national recreation area along the lake seem to have gone to Arizona.
However, the project was declared a great boon to the West and to the people of Utah by Dee Hansen, director of Utah's Department of Natural Resources, who represented the governor. He cited power production and recreation as two of the principal benefits to millions of people, in addition to water storage, for which the project was originally intended.
L. Lorraine Minzmyer, director of the National Park Service's Rocky Mountain Region, recalled the period 21/2 decades ago when "the Colossus of the Colorado was about to stretch out its arms" to create the jewel of the West - Lake Powell - and those who have seen and benefited from the dam and lake hope it "will never lose its luster."
The dam improved the quality of life for millions of people who don't even know it exists, said Clifford I. Barrett, Salt Lake City, director of the Upper Colorado Region for the Bureau of Reclamation.
Glen Canyon Dam tamed a river and is the keystone in an efficient management system that links the Colorado River's upper and lower basins, declared C. Dale Duvall, commissioner of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation in Washington, D.C.
The dam was "carved out of the arid West and is the envy of the world," said James Zigler, assistant Interior secretary for water and science, who represented Interior Secretary Donald Hodel during the anniversary observance.
Reclamation projects are a vital part of the West's future, said Zigler, who refuted claims of those who have opposed reclamation as subsidized projects. Such people are "distorting the facts," and reclamation projects have been good investments for the federal government and the states.
The Saturday program climaxed a week of special activities in nearby Page, Ariz., that included contests, dances and a parade.
Saturday's events concluded with dedication of a new 24-hour weather service for the Lake Powell area, initiated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Utah's delegation included Hansen; State Engineer Bob Morgan; Milo Barney, assistant director, Utah Department of Natural Resources; and Deputy Lt. Gov. David Hansen.
Construction on Glen Canyon Dam had an unusual beginning when then-President Dwight D. Eisnenhower pushed a button in the White House - 2,100 miles away - that ignited the first blast on Nov. 15, 1956.
The building of the dam, the power plant, the town of Page and other facilities cost more than $272 million.
The first bucket of concrete was poured on Sept. 13, 1963. It wasn't until 15 years later that Lake Powell was officially declared full, forming a spectacular body of water 185 miles long, with a shoreline of 1,960 miles in the middle of a beautiful red rock desert.
The dam was officially dedicated by Lady Bird Johnson, wife of former President Lyndon B. Johnson, in the fall of 1966.