A better place
By Seth Muller Lake Powell Chronicle
The Glen Canyon National Recreation Area has been plagued with carbon monoxide deaths,
vandalistic sandstone carvings and non-native plant species that choke out the native flora and fauna.
During a recent interview, Park Superintendent Kitty Roberts said she wants to continue efforts to eliminate each of these problems in 2002, and spoke of accomplishments this past year to curb them.
Carbon monoxide poisonings on houseboats and ski boats occurred this summer — two which resulted in death, but Roberts said the park service has made continued efforts to inform the public and to raise awareness among boaters.
"Even though we had two deaths, we had a new kind of carbon monoxide death, and that was 'teak surfing,'" Roberts said, referring to the June death of 18-year-old Chad Ethington from Centerville, Utah. "The next day (after Ethington's death), rangers issued a safety alert and we brought in NIOSH. We learned this was occurring in many other areas" in the country.
Ethington died from CO poisoning while hanging from the back of a ski boat in an attempt to body surf the boat's wake. This activity makes a person highly susceptible to carbon monoxide inhalation.
Roberts said the park service will continue to raise public awareness in 2002 on the carbon monoxide problem in hopes of decreasing the number of incidents.
During the park service-affiliated Lake Powell Water Safety Council meeting in October, members discussed printing a warning about teak surfing on iridescent orange ski flags distributed at the lake. It serves as one of a number of ways the park service and its affiliates are trying to prevent future poisonings.
Further, park rangers now have hand-held carbon monoxide breath testers, that measure the level of CO in a person's bloodstream. This will allow them to better study and understand carbon monoxide and its effects on people.
Park service officials have also targeted the rampant problem of graffiti on Lake Powell, as visitors continually carve pictures and inscriptions into the sandstone. Carving graffiti into the rock is a criminal offense that carries as much as $500 in fines.
Removal efforts started in the spring with a $38,300 project supported by park entrance fees. The park service also participated in the nationwide Intercoastal Cleanup Day in September. A number of people went to areas of the park with a spray bottle and wire brush to remove carvings.
Roberts said a handful of volunteers went to Face Canyon on a day this fall and in a matter of hours removed all of the carvings.
She said she hopes such efforts will continue.
"This is a project that's multi-yeared as various groups and volunteers help us," Roberts said. "We will certainly be concentrating on (graffiti) removal this year."
Another, less publicized effort undertaken by Glen Canyon park employees involves the removal of tamarisk plants.
Tamarisk — also called salt cedar — is a non-native plant species that has invaded most areas in and around Lake Powell. It increases the salinity of the soil to kill off other, and often native, plants around it.
The park service already completed a project to remove tamarisk from the vicinity of Rainbow Bridge National Monument, and cut and burned a grove of tamarisk in Lees Ferry.
"We're trying to get tamarisk out and trying to re-introduce native plants," Roberts said. "It's going to take a lot of little steps."
Park officials also want to remove another invasive species, Russian Olive, from areas of Glen Canyon.
While those with the park service face a number of issues in 2002, one problem appears to have met its solution.
For the second year in a row, Lake Powell did not have any beach closures as a result of poor water quality, according to NPS reports.
Some closures and swimming restrictions took place in previous seasons because of a high fecal content in the water.
The creation of floating restrooms that also allow houseboats to pump out their sewage holding tanks helped curb the problem along with public education efforts, according to Roberts.
The park service does face some waste water problems on land, however, as they try to address how to handle problems with its Wahweap treatment plant.
About two years ago, the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality cited the park service for violations involving the treatment plant. ADEQ workers found water seeping into the ground and problems with odors.
The park service is conducting an environmental assessment on the plant and alternatives to correct the problem.
Officials are expected to complete two other environmental studies this year that could have an impact on Lake Powell — the personal watercraft study and the site study for the proposed $56 million Antelope Point marina.
"We are still trying to put together a draft of the environmental impact statement" for PWCs, Roberts said. "We will resolve the PWC issue in 2002."
As for the marina, the environmental study is an extension of one completed in 1986 for a project that has been 30 years in the planning for the Navajo Nation and NPS.
Roberts said the study should conclude sometime during the first half of the year. If all goes well, the company building the marina, GMF Antelope LCC, could break ground this summer.
The PWC issue and possible construction of a new marina could be enough to make 2002 an interesting year for Glen Canyon NRA, but add to those the continuing carbon monoxide, graffiti and non-native plant problems, those with the park service face numerous challenges.
To help, Roberts said the park has created a number of partnerships, including ones with other area parks, local schools, law enforcement agencies, the city of Page, the Arizona Film Commission, the Glen Canyon Natural History Association and Friends of Lake Powell, among others.
The park service also wants to partner with individual citizens from the area.
"I think there could be more use of volunteers in the park," Roberts said. "There have been issues" which can be helped through volunteerism, such as graffiti removal. "Anything the visitors can do to help is great. We need to promote that stewardship ethic."
©Lake Powell Chronicle 2002