Plumbing problem at Glen Canyon Dam threatens Colorado River system | OUT WEST ROUNDUP | News


Plumbing problem at dam threatens Colorado River system

ATLANTA — Plumbing problems at the dam holding back the second-largest reservoir in the U.S. are spurring concerns about future water delivery issues to Southwestern states supplied by the Colorado River.

Federal officials recently reported damage to four tubes known as “river outlet works” at Glen Canyon Dam on the Utah-Arizona border. The dam is responsible for generating hydropower and releasing water stored in Lake Powell downstream to California, Arizona, Nevada and eventually Mexico.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which operates the major dams in the Colorado River system, is evaluating issues related to Glen Canyon Dam when Lake Powell reaches low levels. Those issues include problems with the four tubes such as sedimentation and cavitation — when tiny air bubbles develop while water passes through plumbing. Cavitation can cause tears in metal and other mechanical damage.

The Colorado River provides water to seven U.S. states, nearly 30 Native American tribes and two states in Mexico. Years of overuse by farms and cities, and stubborn drought worsened by climate change has meant that much less water flows today through the 1,450-mile river than in previous decades.

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The structural problems at Glen Canyon Dam, first reported by the Arizona Daily Star, could complicate how federal officials manage the river in years to come when hydrologists and others predict Lake Powell will fall below current levels. The damaged tubes sit below much larger ones known as penstocks that normally carry the reservoir’s water. The smaller tubes that make up the “river outlet works” allow water releases at lower reservoir levels.

Lake Powell currently sits at about 32% capacity.


Bill restores voting rights to newly released felons

OMAHA — Nebraska lawmakers passed a bill on April 11 to restore the voting rights of those convicted of felonies upon the completion of their sentences, including prison and parole time.

The bill, introduced for years by term-limited Omaha state Sen. Justin Wayne, passed by a wide margin.

Currently, a person who has been convicted of a felony must wait two years after completing all the terms of their conviction before regaining voting rights. Wayne’s measure eliminates that waiting period, established in 2005 by the Legislature. Prior to the waiting period, a person convicted of a felony lost their right to vote indefinitely.

The passage of the bill “means everything for the thousands of people who have not been full participants in society,” said TJ King, a Nebraska-based outreach specialist with the advocacy group Black and Pink who was unable to vote in the 2022 general election after coming off probation for drug and theft convictions three months earlier.

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For years, Wayne’s effort to restore voting rights for felons faced opposition from several Republicans in the officially nonpartisan Nebraska legislature. Opponents maintained that a two-year waiting period is reasonable and served as a deterrent to committing crime in the first place.

Wayne prevailed by appealing to the practical sensibilities of law-and-order lawmakers, citing studies that show recidivism drops when people are allowed to engage in their community upon being released.

Republican Gov. Jim Pillen’s office did not immediately respond to messages by The Associated Press asking whether he would sign the bill into law.


Electric vehicle mandates stay as dealers fight rules

ALBUQUERQUE — Mandates for auto dealers to provide an increasing number of electric vehicles for sale across New Mexico will remain in place as state regulators on April 5 denied an effort to derail implementation of the new rules pending a legal challenge.

Members of the state Environmental Improvement Board voted 4-1 after deliberating behind closed doors, marking a setback to the New Mexico Automotive Dealers Association as it pursues its challenge before the state Court of Appeals.

Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has been pushing for more electric vehicles in the state, saying doing so will curb emissions and help address climate change. The state has adopted more stringent standards for vehicle emissions and established the mandates for inventories of zero-emission vehicles, winning praise from environmentalists.

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But local auto dealers and others, including Navajo Nation President Buu Nygren, are concerned that the mandates will have negative effects particularly for rural communities that lack electric vehicle charging infrastructure. They also have argued that affordability is an issue for consumers on the Navajo Nation and across New Mexico.

Republicans in the legislative minority also have criticized the governor’s plans as impractical, citing the range that many people have to drive in New Mexico — which is the fifth largest state in the U.S., although sparsely populated.

Starting in 2026, 43% of all new passenger cars and light-duty trucks shipped to New Mexico auto dealerships by national auto manufacturers must be zero-emission vehicles. The rules also call for 15% of all new commercial heavy-duty trucks to be zero-emission vehicles.


Endangered ferrets cloned from critter frozen in 1980s

CHEYENNE — Two more black-footed ferrets have been cloned from the genes used for the first clone of an endangered species in the U.S., bringing to three the number of slinky predators genetically identical to one of the last such animals found in the wild, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced on April 17.

Efforts to breed the first clone, a female named Elizabeth Ann born in 2021, have failed, but the recent births of two more cloned females, named Noreen and Antonia, in combination with a captive breeding program launched in the 1980s, is boosting hopes of diversifying the endangered species. Genetic diversity can improve a species’ ability to adapt and survive despite disease outbreaks and changing environmental conditions.

A nocturnal type of weasel, black-footed ferrets are now a conservation success story — after being all but wiped out in the wild, thousands of them have been bred in captivity and reintroduced at dozens of sites in the western U.S., Canada and Mexico since the 1990s.

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They were thought to be extinct, until a ranch dog named Shep brought a dead one home in western Wyoming in 1981. Conservationists then managed to capture seven more, and establish a breeding program.

Noreen and Antonia, like Elizabeth Ann, are genetically identical to Willa, one of the original seven. Willa’s remains — frozen back in the 1980s — could help conservation efforts because her genes contain roughly three times more unique variations than are currently found among black-footed ferrets, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service.

Biologists plan to try to breed Noreen and Antonia after they reach maturity later this year.

To clone these three ferrets, the Fish and Wildlife Service worked with zoo and conservation organizations and ViaGen Pets & Equine, a Texas business that clones horses for $85,000 and pet dogs for $50,000.


9-year-old boy’s pet octopus a social-media sensation

The one thing 9-year-old Cal Clifford wanted more than anything since he was a toddler was a pet octopus.

The boy’s family in rural Edmond, Oklahoma, humored him with toy versions of an eight-legged mollusk, but as Cal got older it became clear that only the real thing would do.

The child’s father, 36-year-old dentist Cameron Clifford, researched the possibility with a local aquarium store and before long Terrance the California two-spot octopus, also known as a bimac, was living in a watery enclosure at the family home southwest of Oklahoma City.

A popular TikTok saga was launched with the father narrating the tale of Terrance the cephalopod, using a faux British accent generated by the social media app. Eventually, hundreds of thousands of people were following.

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Within weeks, the tale took an surprise twist when it was learned Terrance was actually a female as it laid some 50 eggs that the family initially assumed were unfertilized. Several weeks after that, teeny near-transparent octopus babies began hatching and were given names like Rocket Larry, Squid Cudi, Swim Shady, Jay-Sea and Sea-Yoncé

While female octopuses usually die soon after laying their eggs, Clifford said Terrance remains alive four months later.

“Aside from the physical, financial and emotional requirements of owning a species such as a bimac, you will learn a lot about yourself in the process,” the Arizona-born Clifford told TikTok followers in his app-generated accent.

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