BRC Update on Deepening the Castle Rock Cut at Lake Powell

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Jack Welch, Special Projects Consultant, BlueRibbon Coalition
- Phone: (303) 279-8436 or Cell (303) 324-7185
- Fax: (303) 279-8214
- Email: brjack_w@sharetrails.org
- Webpage: http://www.sharetrails.org/staff/#JackW

Date: 04/16/2008

by Jack Welch, Special Projects Consultant
BlueRibbon Coalition

Good News, the Cut Could Open This Season!

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, also known as Lake Powell, has just finished its comment period on the Environmental Assessment (EA) on deepening an area on Lake Powell commonly called the Castle Rock Cut. Your comments that supported the deepening of the Castle Rock Cut will make a difference!

Even as the Park Service considers your comments, there is good news. On April 3rd, the Park Service released information titled "Heavy Snowpack in the Rockies Will Likely Raise Lake Powell to Highest Levels Since 2002;" the release continues, "Causing the Castle Rock Cut to Become Passable to Boaters by June." That is very good news! In addition, the Bureau of Reclamation's projections are that the cut will remain usable until 2010. What is causing this good news? It is all caused by the Snowpack in the Upper Colorado River Basin being at 124% of average in early April. As the snow melts, it will flow into the Colorado River and eventually into Lake Powell.

Before I continue, let me provide some background information to help understand why deepening and using the Castle Rock Cut is important. The cut is a popular short-cut route on Lake Powell that allows all boaters, including PWCers, to conveniently travel between the Wahweap Marina and other destinations uplake. Traveling through the Castle Rock Cut, when operational, saves about 12 miles of travel and more than one hour's transit time to locations uplake. These areas uplake include Rainbow Bridge, Padre Bay, Warm Creek Bay, etc. In the case of PWCs, the narrow channel that ALL boating activity is forced to navigate now can create some potentially dangerous areas. There are areas of large wave action and close proximity to much larger crafts, making the 12 mile transit difficult at best. PWCs vs. 75ft long house boats, not good!

When the Lake Powell water level drops again, and that day will come, it will be time to excavate the cut. The BlueRibbon was glad to help lead the charge to get the project underway last fall and will lead the charge again when needed. This project proposes to deepen the existing cut to 3,580-foot elevation and make the cut available to boats drafting 4 feet or less when the lake level is above the 3,585-foot level. This would allow most boat operators, including PWCers, to use the cut much of the peak season.

Your comments on the EA this time will help the Park Service move ahead on the project when it is needed. In simple terms, all recreational boaters, including PWCers, told the Park Service that deepening the cut is important to them and they support Alternative 2, the preferred alternative. This showing of major support for deepening the cut will hopefully get the Park Service to put the deepening process on a fast track when the Lake level falls.

Highlight of BlueRibbon's comment included the safety issue I mentioned above. In addition, we commented on the issues of decreased fuel consumption from the savings of the 12 miles of travel required through the regular channel. A final comment was that boaters would be dispersed more widely across the Lake due to the opening of the Castle Rock Cut.

Thanks again for commenting on this important effort and, for now, enjoy using the Castle Rock Cut this coming season!

Additional details about the project are available online at: http://parkplanning.nps.gov/glca. At the website, under Current Project, click on Deepen Castle Rock Cut Project. A copy of the Environmental Assessment (EA) is available online at:
http://parkplanning.nps.gov/documentsList.cfm?parkId=62&projectId=20386
A limited number of hard copies of the EA are available by calling 928-608-6200

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