Glen Canyon Dam, Unusual Virgina Earthquake, and Gateway West: This Week at the DOI


Home / Glen Canyon Dam, Unusual Virgina Earthquake, and Gateway West: This Week at the DOI

With the Grid Ex 2 simulation now completed, it was interesting to see the DOI focusing on the Gateway West high-voltage transmission project in its weekly video broadcast. In addition, the Department of the Interior revisited other geographic and geoscience topics such as the high-flow releases from the Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado and the unusual August 2011 Virginia earthquake.

Here is what else happened this week at Interior: “The Department hosts the 2013 White House Tribal Nations Conference; the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service destroys six tons of confiscated ivory; and Secretary Jewell will join those marking the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address.

Gateway West Project

The project, most of which traverses federal land, is intended to provide needed strength and reliability to the rapidly growing region of Idaho and Wyoming. The DOI expects the Gateway West Project to deliver 3000 megawatts of mostly wind-generated electricity and that workers will complete the project in phases between 2019 and 2023.

Authorised Routes of BLM's Record of Decision for gateway West Transmission Line Project. Image by Gateway West.

Authorised Routes of BLM’s Record of Decision for Gateway West Transmission Line Project. Image by Gateway West.

As you can imagine, it takes considerable study and consultation by the DOI’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to develop proposed routes within a study area 2 miles wide and, within that area, final decisions on a 1100 mile right-a-way 125 to 250 feet wide from Casper to Boise areas. Residents and environmental groups raised issues such as the power line’s effect on the habitat of the imperiled sage grouse, and concern about the long power line disrupting wild and undeveloped land, infringing on private property rights, negatively impacting prime farmland, and destroying spectacular, pristine vistas.

Final routing decisions are termed Records of Decision (ROD). The BLM announced the ROD for the project on November 14, 2013 for segments 1 through 7 and segment 10 of the project. A decision on segments 8 and 9 is being deferred to resolve routing in that area. The current ROD allows Rocky Mountain Power and Idaho Power to work toward construction in the approved segments.

Glen Canyon Dam

Free flowing water naturally erodes and deposits sediment. It cuts into one side of a winding river’s bank, for instance, while depositing sediment on the opposite side where the current slows down. Adding a dam into the mix disrupts this balance of erosion and deposition by blocking sediment behind the structure and then washing away downriver sediment landforms and their ecosystems during water-releases.

Coplorado River Immediately Downstream of Glen Canyon Dam with Green Clear Water Indicative of Sediment Loss. Image by Christian Mehlführer

Colorado River Immediately Downstream of Glen Canyon Dam with Green Clear Water Indicative of Sediment Loss. Image by Christian Mehlführer.

In an effort to clear millions of tons of sediment that have settled because of damming, to restore beaches and wildlife habitats that have disappeared, and to protect archaeological sites, the DOI, through the Bureau of  Reclamation, is releasing up to 37,200 cubic feet of water per second from the over the course of five days. It will not, however, change the annual water delivery volume to Lake Mead.

Termed adaptive management, this science-based experiment, timed to occur following large sediment inputs from downstream tributaries of the Colorado, hopes to restore the environment in Grand Canyon National Park for the benefit of wildlife and tourists alike.

Virginia Earthquake

The welcome news from the National Parks Service of the reopening of the Washington Monument in the spring of 2014 capped off the video broadcast. Damaged by the unusual August 2011 earthquake two years ago, it will reopen following re-landscaping of the grounds after repairs are finished.

Interior is busy!


Bureau of Land Management. Gateway West Transmission Line Project. (2013). Accessed November 18, 2013.

Daily Mail Reporter. Grand Canyon to be flooded for five days to create beaches for campers. Accessed November 18, 2013.

DOI. Science-Based Plan Takes Advantage of Tremendous Sediment Deposits Following Rainstorms. (2013). Accessed November 18, 2013.

DOI. Interior Approves New High-Voltage Interstate Transmission Line Project in Wyoming and Idaho. (2013). Accessed November 18, 2013.

Ruane, Michael E. Washington Monument will turn off the lights as repairs move closer to completion.(2013). Accessed November 18, 2013.

Wyoming Energy News. Wind Power Line in Wyoming, Idaho Draws Opposition. (2012). Accessed November 18, 2013.

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