Chronicle of Lake Powell | Sinema visits Page, visits Lake Powell
Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema traveled to Page last week, visiting Lake Powell to see first-hand the effects of the drought and meeting with officials from the National Park Service and the city of Page to discuss the issues affecting the region.
After her tour, Sinema told the Lake Powell Chronicle in an interview that it was her first visit to the area since October 2020 and seeing the current state of the lake was “devastating.”
“I mean, it’s emotionally quite difficult to see. The difference is shocking,” she said. “I wouldn’t say I was surprised, because part of my job as a senator is to follow the news about what’s going on…but seeing it with your own eyes is something quite different. And it’s devastating. »
Sinema’s Aug. 8 visit to Page came the day after the US Senate passed the Cut Inflation Act, which includes $4 billion for drought relief. The law was passed by the House of Representatives last Friday.
This follows the passing of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act last November, which provides $8.3 billion to build and strengthen water infrastructure across the western United States, including aging infrastructure, water storage and transport, water recycling and reuse, desalination, drought contingency plans and dams. security.
This funding includes $300 million over the next five years for water harvesting operations under the Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan. Of this funding, $250 million is for the Bureau of Reclamation to create or conserve 100,000 acre feet of water per year for the lower Colorado River basin at Lake Mead.
Sinema told the Chronicle that she believes Page can access federal funds from those sources.
“There’s the $8 billion in infrastructure, the $4 billion from yesterday, and then I’ve also advocated for, and I’m pushing for, additional credit for these drought-related issues,” said Sinema, adding that she expects Arizona to hold its own. $1-1.5 billion from the $4 billion drought mitigation component of the Inflation Reduction Act.
“There’s about $72.5 million just for Glen Canyon to do the work that they need to make sure there’s boat access…so people can still enjoy this lake even with the dramatic drought we are facing,” Sinema said.
She said she backed the Cut Inflation Act because it was “mainly a climate package”.
“Obviously, as Arizonans, we see climate change every day. As Arizonans, we are paying the price not only economically, but also in quality of life because of the climate change,” she said.
“That’s why it was so important to me to fight for this $4 billion and drought funding. Not everyone in the country is facing drought, but in the West and South West in particular, it’s a massive crisis for us. So yesterday’s package has parts that are great and parts that aren’t as great. There are parts that were hard to bear. But climate provisions are absolutely critical to Arizona’s future.
After her visit to Lake Powell on August 8, Sinema was briefed by Glen Canyon National Recreation Area Assistant Superintendent Michelle Kerns and other NPS staff on the situation at Lake Powell.
This included details of NPS efforts to address low water impacts on the lake, such as the status of projects to maintain or restore water access at Antelope Point Marina, Halls Crossing and Hi. Sinema was also briefed on ongoing fundraising efforts, such as the $4 million additional funding recently received by GCNRA to repair a water well in Wahweap, which is at risk of losing drinking water as the lake level rises. decrease.
“We share Arizonans’ concerns about the historic and devastating drought and its impacts on Lake Powell,” Sinema said in a press release after the briefing. “Our visit provided a sobering look at the seriousness of Lake Powell’s low water levels, and we will continue to work directly with Arizona experts and local leaders to implement the transformational investments we achieved for our state to secure our water and our economic future.”
Following his visit to GCNRA, Sinema spent time at Page City Hall to discuss with Mayor Bill Diak and other local leaders the current economic, water and hydroelectric challenges caused by the historically low water levels in the Lake Powell. Specifically, she spoke with Diak about the need for a new pipeline, or straw, to draw water from Lake Powell and provide drinking water to Page.
“One of the city’s main concerns is, of course, the chaff and pipeline issue. We thought about how to get access to federal funds to help them fix this. They’ve been there for 20 years,” Sinema told the Chronicle. “[Diak and I] talked about some of the opportunities for me to identify funding and help Page secure it. It’s at the top of my priority list.
At City Hall, Sinema also listened to concerns about local issues from Ken Runnels, the administrative manager of Antelope Point Marina; Ralph Parker, CEO/CNA of Page Banner Hospital; and Kay Leum, Executive Director of Extended Learning at Coconino Community College Page Center.
She heard from Runnels about the need at Antelope Point Marina to access the lake in the form of boat ramps that reach into the water. He said the marina would be willing to carry out the work to extend the current boat launch to water level if given permission by the NPS.
Last summer the marina submitted an application to NPS to redesign and extend the current ramp and more recently requested permission to build an alternative low water ramp. None of those requests were approved, but they got the go-ahead to fix the ramp used to bring electric carts and pedestrians to the marina.
“We finally obtained the authorization to redo the ramp for the carts, the pedestrian ramp which descends from the top towards the marina. It is in progress at the moment. It should be finished within the next four weeks,” Runnels said. “But our needs, really, the most important thing right now is access to the lake and the ability to do things to develop and promote the lake and bring more business to the Page area.”
Parker said the main challenges facing Page Banner Hospital were staffing and maintaining the aging building. He pointed out that the hospital had to close its intensive care unit due to understaffing, forcing some patients to be flown to Flagstaff or St. George for treatment. Parker said the hospital has 12 to 14 nurses on staff who travel 75 miles or more to get to work, adding that affordable housing in Page would help address those staffing issues.
Leum said Coconino Community College was working with Gentera Enterprises on a project to build affordable housing for students and workers, which the college was seeking funding for. Sinema said his office could offer help identifying potential federal grant resources.
“The fact that [Coconino Community College] doing a public-private partnership on this new housing project is really exciting, and I want to help them with that effort,” Sinema told the Chronicle after the meeting.
“The initiative taken by Coconino County Community College in this effort is truly tremendous. And their partnership to work with both the city and the hospital system, I think, is really going to help Page become more affordable for mid-level workers.
Sinema added that she thinks Page “has an amazing future.”
“First of all, it’s one of the most beautiful regions in the world, isn’t it? So it’s very good for them,” she said.
“As the mayor said, it’s a small, tight-knit community, and we want to protect that at Page. But clearly Page needs help at the state and federal level to get the kind of growth and resilience that they need to be competitive in the future. It’s a great place to live, it’s also a great place to visit, and so we want to make sure that we’re creating a sustainable community for people, but we also want to make it attractive and, frankly, environmentally sound for people to come and continue to visit. So supporting not only Lake Powell but, of course, supporting things like nearby Antelope Canyon and all the amazing outdoor life that is there. People want to come and spend more time in Page, but they can only do that if the infrastructure is there and ready for them.