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April 16, 2014     Post 47
A Vist To Lake Mead

On our annual cross country migration from border to border last month we stopped in for a few hours at Lake Mead. This strange man made landscape dominated by the largest man made lake in America in the middle of the vast Mohave Desert has always fascinated me.

From a boating and an ecological standpoint it is a strange almost surreal sort of place. Deep clear cold water surrounded by sun blasted rocks and gravel and a few scraggly gray shrugs. Quite different from the home lake. Not many beaches for one thing.

We walked out a long floating dock to a floating roofed complex anchored off of the Temple Bar marina. A number of fifty foot houseboats drowsed in the shade and the water was mirror calm on a sunny seventy degree day. Except for one or two fishermen we saw nobody out on the water. We rented a little runabout for two hours and roared off down the lake through the flooded reaches of one time Virgin Canyon.

Lake Mead has a few sailboats. As you might guess from place names like Horsepower Cove, this is definitely motorboat country. Gas sucking noisy fast motorboats like the one we rented to produce Green House Gas with, predominate here. Perhaps because of its man made origins the place struck me as not being a very diverse sort of ecoystem. The main thing to notice here is geology. And hydrology. The 100 foot “bathtub ring” was impressive. It's a white band of mineral deposits marking the recent decline in the lake's surface level.

Wikipedia states that there is a fifty percent chance that the lake could drop to below minimum pool elevation (1050 feet) within three years. If the lake falls below that level then Hoover Dam no longer can generate power. At “dead pool” the river below the damn dam would go dry! (Unless they can PUMP the water around the dam.) This would not set well with the good citizens of San Diego as well as with a lot of other downstream water drinkers. Will we be driving our pick up truck with a water tank in the bed out west for our annual visit to America's Finest City in the future?

Dead pool for Lake Mead is 895 feet above sea level- but recall the lake has already dropped about 100 feet in thirty years.

Climate change models predict that changing precipitation and increased evaporation rates will be superimposed on historic patterns of wet and dry years accelerating lake level declines. The long term outlook for Lake Mead is not great. Don't wait too long to go water skiing there.

Wikipedia says that the original tunnels that diverted the river around the dam have been sealed with concrete plugs. Presumably if it came to that, the plugs could be dynamited and the river's flow could resume. But it would be an admission that Hoover Dam was finished “terminated unsuccessfully” as the article puts it. A lot of people would not consider its termination to be a failure. Rather they would consider it was inevitable.

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