Tom Wolf should check a few facts

  Dear HCN,


Please may I quibble over a couple of minor points in Tom Wolf's informative essay about Floyd Dominy and Morrow Point Dam (HCN, 10/26/98). Morrow Point is indeed an elegant engineering marvel, and you have to admire the artful audacity of its designers, but the Black Canyon of the Gunnison is a marvel, too, a world-class physiographic marvel designed by God and Mother Nature. I walked and crisscrossed its awesome 50-mile length before its upstream third was inundated by the three huge dams. Dammed elegance aside, Morrow Point's graceful arch does not "belly out" into Blue Mesa Reservoir. Tut, tut. Said reservoir is impounded by the utilitarian, if inelegant, rock and earthen plug of Blue Mesa Dam near the head of the canyon.


Second, Wolf mentioned that he and his students visited Morrow Point Dam "to see where the Colorado Front Range's water comes from," but Morrow Point was conceived only to generate power and raise revenue from its production. It is a "cash register dam" not designed for the transmountain diversion of water. Blue Mesa and Crystal dams in the Black Canyon and Flaming Gorge Dam in Utah also are "cash register dams," built primarily to generate power, though their combined storage also helps fulfill downstream water commitments. Crystal has minimal storage capacity. Last I heard, its turbines provide peaking power for times of high energy demand. Though Gunnison River water is coveted by various east-slope urban venues, not one drop has yet been diverted out of the Gunnison River Basin.





Wallace Hansen


Lakewood, Colorado





Wallace Hansen is the author of The Black Canyon of the Gunnison, in Depth; Dinosaur's Restless Rivers and Craggy Canyon Walls; and Geology of the Flaming Gorge Area.





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