LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — It was the summer of 1983 and throughout the desert southwest people were watching the Colorado River quickly filling up Lake Powell and Lake Mead. The runoff from the Colorado Rockies was creating near-record levels in our reservoirs.
The problems that came with Lake Mead filling to capacity might sound familiar to someone in 2022.
In late June 1983, KLAS-TV reporter Mark Fierro broadcast a series of reports on the problems caused by the rising waters at Lake Mead. Reporter Cindy Benson also reported on the spillways at Hoover Dam being used for the first time since 1941 when Lake Mead was initially filled.
The water level in 1983 caused a business owner at Overton Beach to shut his doors, mobile homes had to be moved, fishermen complained the water level would ruin summer fishing, people couldn’t put boats in the water as the park service closed ramps, and there were new hazards popping up in parts of the lakes like treetops that could damage boats.
These are all complaints being heard in 2022. The only difference is Lake Mead in 1983 was about to crest at 1,225 feet and now is hitting daily record lows. The lake is down more than 185 feet from the summer of 1983.
Another similar problem faced in both 1983 and 2022 was the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) cutting back on the amount of power generated at the dam.
In 1983 the BOR cut back generator use because of the amount of water pouring down the spillways into the Colorado River. To equalize the water output heading toward Lake Mohave less water was run through the generators.
In 2022 the BOR said power production at Hoover Dam is down about 33% and will continue to drop as the “megadrought” affecting the Southwest continues.