Tri-State to close #coal generation plants in #Colorado and #New Mexico #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

In 2015, signs supporting coal were abundant in Craig, Colo. Photo/Allen Best

From The Craig Daily Press (Joshua Carney):

Tri-State Generation continues to make changes that are hitting the Yampa Valley hard.

On Thursday, Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association announced it will close all of its coal-fired power plants and mines in New Mexico and Colorado by 2030. The power provider serves nearly 20 rural electric cooperatives.

Tri-State announced the closure of its Escalante Power Plant in Prewitt, New Mexico, by the end of 2020. It plans to close Craig Station Units 2 and 3, and the Colowyo Mine in Northwest Colorado by 2030.

The announcement from the Westminster-based power provider comes on the heels of pressure by two of its rural electric co-op members, including Brighton-based United Power and Durango-based La Plata Electric Association, in hopes of making a faster transition to renewable energy in recent years. The pair have sought to break up with Tri-State as a result of the power wholesaler’s reluctance to use more renewables and in seeking more say over their power sources, according to previous Craig Press reporting.

The power provider officially announced the following information on the closures during a teleconference Thursday:

  • Closures will result in 100% reduction of coal emissions in Colorado and New Mexico while increasing Tri-State’s competitiveness with cleaner portfolio and stable rates.
  • Major changes in generation portfolio include closure of Escalante Station near Prewitt, N.M., by end of 2020, and closure of Craig Station and Colowyo Mine in Northwest Colorado by 2030.
  • Tri-State is working with state and local leaders to support affected employees and communities, and will seek legislation in Colorado to provide certainty on state greenhouse gas reduction rules.
  • In total, the closure of the power plants and mine impacts roughly 600 power plant and mine employees, who have been key to Tri-State’s and its predecessor generation and transmission cooperatives’ ability to supply reliable and affordable power to cooperatives for decades…

    Tri-State will work with state and local officials to support affected employees and their communities during the transition…

    The coal-fired Tri-State Generation and Transmission plant in Craig provides much of the power used in Western Colorado, including in Aspen and Pitkin County. Will Toor, executive director of the Colorado Energy Office has a plan to move the state’s electric grid to 100 percent renewable energy by 2040. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    Craig Station and Colowyo Mine in Colorado retiring by 2030

    Craig Station, a 1,285-megawatt, three-unit power plant in Moffat County, will close by 2030, based on Thursday’s Tri-State announcement. The power plant’s units were constructed by Colorado Ute Electric Association and began operations between 1979 and 1984.

    Tri-State acquired Craig Station and other assets from Colorado Ute in 1992. The power plant currently employs 253 people.

    Tri-State previously announced that the 427-megawatt Unit 1 will close by the end of 2025. Despite Thursday’s announcement for Units 2 and 3, the closing date for Unit 1 remains unchanged.

    The 410-megawatt Unit 2 and the 448-megawatt Unit 3 will close by 2030, according to Highley. Tri-State operates Craig Station and owns 24% of Units 1 and 2. Tri-State owns 100% of Unit 3. Tri-State is working with the other plant owners to determine the specific details for the retirement of Unit 2.

    The South Taylor pit is one of Colowyo Mine’s current active coal mining site. Photo by David Tan via

    Colowyo Mine, located in Moffat and Rio Blanco counties, produces coal used at Craig Station and will cease production by 2030, at which time operations will turn entirely to reclamation. Tri-State purchased Colowyo Mine from Rio Tinto in 2011. The mine currently employs 219 people.

    Tri-State is working with the Governor and legislative leaders on proactive legislation that ensures the closures meet greenhouse gas compliance obligations in Colorado, while also maintaining stable rates and reliable power for Tri-State members. This legislation would give Tri-State the ability to transition resources in a timely and financially responsible manner while providing certainty.

    Tri-State previously retired its coal capacity at Nucla Station in Western Colorado in 2019.

    Tri-State plans to close the Escalante Generating Station in 2020. Photo/Allen Best

    Escalante Station in New Mexico retiring by the end of 2020

    Escalante Station, a 253-megawatt coal power plant near Prewitt, N.M., will close by the end of 2020. The power plant was constructed by Plains Electric Generation and Transmission Cooperative and began operations in 1984. Plains Electric merged with Tri-State in 2000. The closure of the power plant will impact 107 employees.

    “The timeline to retire Escalante Station by the end of 2020 is driven by the economics of operating the power plant in a competitive power market, and by Tri-State’s addition of low-cost renewable resources,” said Highley. “Our Escalante Station employees work safely and tirelessly to serve our cooperative’s members, and we’re committed to support them through this difficult transition.”

    Escalante Station employees will receive a generous severance package, the opportunity to apply for vacancies at other Tri-State facilities, assistance with education and financial planning, and supplemental funding for health benefits.

    Tri-State will also provide $5 million in local community support, and is working with the New Mexico Governor’s Office, legislative leaders and local communities in Cibola and McKinley counties to address the impacts of the transition, including workforce retraining and other economic development efforts. Tri-State will also address issues related to the McKinley Paper Company, which purchases steam and water from Escalante Station.

    Tri-State previously retired its coal ownership capacity in Unit 3 of San Juan Generation Station in New Mexico in 2017.

    On Thursday, following the State of the State address in Denver, Speaker KC Becker (D-Boulder) reacted to an announcement from the Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association outlining the retirement of all coal generation in Colorado and New Mexico.

    “I applaud Tri-State’s commitment to Colorado’s clean energy future and am impressed by the bold carbon emissions reduction target they set. Meeting our state’s targets requires immediate collective action, and I’m happy to see Tri-State take their role seriously,” Speaker Becker said. “As our state transitions toward a clean, renewable energy future, we must always keep in mind that this change will bring difficult transitions for Colorado’s energy workers, their families and communities.

    A commitment to a clean energy future also requires a commitment to a fair and just transition for Colorado’s workers. Protecting and supporting workers and communities through these shifting economic tides remains a top priority for the legislature. I look forward to continuing to work with a broad array of stakeholders to find ways to support and protect working families affected by a changing energy economy. The Just Transition Office created by the legislature last year will continue to work with impacted communities and worker representatives across the state on a plan to support those impacted by the transition away from coal.”

    Craig Station in northwest Colorado is a coal-fired power plant operated by Tri-State Generation & Transmission. Photo credit: Allen Best

    From The Colorado Sun (Jesse Paul):

    Tri-State has been pressured by its rural electric co-op members — including Brighton-based United Power and Durango-based La Plata Electric Association — to make a faster transition to renewable energy in recent years. The pair have sought to break up with Tri-State as a result of the power wholesaler’s reluctance to use more renewables and in seeking more say over their power sources.

    Two co-ops have already negotiated exits from Tri-State. They are the Delta-Montrose Electric Association and the Kit Carson Electric Cooperative in Taos, N.M.

    Tri-State, a Westminster-based, nonprofit power provider, retired its Nucla Station coal-fired power plant in September. The utility says the closures won’t cause electric rates to rapidly rise.

    “Serving our members’ clean energy and affordability needs, supporting state requirements and goals, and leading the fundamental changes in our industry require the retirement of our coal facilities in Colorado and New Mexico,” Rick Gordon, chairman of the board of Tri-State and a director of Mountain View Electric Association in eastern Colorado, said in a written statement. “As we make this difficult decision, we do so with a deep appreciation for the contributions of our employees who have dedicated their talents and energy to help us deliver on our mission to our members.”

    Solar panels, such these at the Garfield County Airport near Rifle, Colo., need virtually no water, once they are manufactured. Photo/Allen Best

    From Colorado Public Radio (Grace Hood):

    “That Tri-State announcement is a good business decision,” reflected Republican State Sen. Bob Rankin who represents the region. “But believe me, there are going to be people crying in Craig, Colorado.”

    According to one estimate by the Rocky Mountain Institute, an environmental think tank, Tri-State stands to gain $600 million by replacing existing coal resources with new wind and solar.

    Yearly Colorado and U.S. national coal production overlapped with presidential terms. Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Colorado Division of Reclamation Mining and Safety
    Credit: Jim Hill / CPR News

    While Tri-State hasn’t committed to an economic lump sum payment for Craig yet, early indications suggest that the money could be substantial. A company-owned coal-fired power plant closure announced in Escalante, New Mexico resulted in $5 million of support. Tri-State is encouraging officials to match dollars from public and private sources…

    Along with financial support from Tri-State, Barela said Craig can expect help from Colorado’s newly formed Just Transition Office. It’s in the middle of a fact-finding mission guided by Keystone Research Center to discover what job transition programs in coal communities have been successful.

    Quarterly average employees at Colorado’s coal mines overlapped with presidential terms. Figures include office employment, not just miners. Production has ceased at New Horizon, which is no longer an active mine. Source: Mine Safety and Health Administration Credit: Grace Hood, Jim Hill / CPR News

    Barela, the state of Colorado and Tri-State will continue to work with Craig officials in the coming months. If there’s one silver lining to the Tri-State announcement, it ’s that it comes at a time of tremendous state economic prosperity. Colorado’s unemployment hovers around 2.5 percent.

    Escalante Generation Station. Photo credit: Clean Cooperative

    From The Albuquerque Journal (Kevin Robinson-Avila):

    Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association will shut down its 253 megawatt coal-fired generating station near Grants by the end of 2020 as part of the wholesale electric supplier’s efforts to transition to a clean energy grid over the next decade, according to a Thursday announcement.

    The closure will eliminate 107 jobs at the plant, and potentially scores more at a nearby coal mine that supplies fuel for the generating station.

    The association has run the Escalante plant in Prewitt since 2000, after it merged with Plains Electric Generation and Transmission Cooperative, which constructed and opened the plant in 1984. Escalante was built to operate through 2045, but Tri-State is closing it 25 years early as part of a broad plan to eliminate all the association’s coal-fired generation in New Mexico and Colorado to meet new regulations in both states that mandate a transition to a carbon-free grid…

    “We understand it’s a shock for our employees,” said Tri-State CEO Duane Highley in a conference call with reporters Thursday afternoon. “We will work with them and the local communities where they work to help minimize the negative impacts.”

    Tri-State said employees will receive “generous” severance packages, opportunities to apply for vacancies at other Tri-State facilities, supplemental funding for health benefits, and educational and financial planning assistance.

    The association will also provide $5 million in local community support in New Mexico, Highley told reporters. The association has been working with Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s office and with state legislators to collaborate on assistance programs and retraining for workers, he said…

    Workforce Solutions Cabinet Secretary Bill McCamley said his office will meet with local officials and workers next week to assess needs and ways the state can help…

    Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department Secretary Sarah Cottrell Propst said the government will work with Tri-State to help locate renewable generation facilities that replace Escalante in the affected communities, if possible, to offset some of the economic impacts there.

    Apart from 107 employees at the Escalante plant, it’s unclear how many workers could lose their jobs at the nearby coal mine, which is run by Peabody Coal Co. But Robert Castillo, CEO of Continental Divide Electric Cooperative in Grants, said mine layoffs will likely double the impact…

    The impact will be felt throughout the state’s northwestern region, since it comes on top of the partial shutdown of the coal-fired Four Corners Power Plant near Farmington and current efforts to completely close the nearby San Juan Generating Station, Castillo said.

    “The problem is much broader, because it’s not just the Grants area,” Castillo said. “We’re talking about the whole northwest quadrant of New Mexico with the Four Corners plant, San Juan, and now Escalante. The whole area is going to be in bad shape.”

    Castillo, who is also a board member of the Cibola Communities Economic Development Foundation, said local leaders want to work with state government to recruit more industry to the area. That’s critical for economic development assistance to have an impact, since retraining workers is only effective if alternative jobs are available…

    Tri-State said closing Escalante will help the association meet New Mexico’s new Energy Transition Act, which requires state electric cooperatives to derive 50% of their electricity from renewable resources by 2030, and from 100% renewable and carbon-free generation by 2050.

    Tri-State expects to meet the 50% renewable milestone by 2024, six years in advance of the 2030 deadline. Currently, about 30% of its electricity comes from renewables.

    Rapidly declining prices for solar and wind generation will greatly offset the costs of shutting down coal operations, allowing Tri-State to maintain moderate prices – and possibly even lower its rates – for member cooperatives going forward, Highley said.

    “We have new requests for proposals for additional renewable resources and the costs are coming in at such low rates that it allows us to save money even while accelerating the write-off of coal assets,” Highley said.

    Tri-State will make announcements about replacement resources next week.

    South Canal hydroelectric site — via The Watch

    From The Montrose Press (Katharhynn Heidelberg):

    “By year 2030, Tri-State will not operate any coal-based assets,” CEO Duane Highley said during a Thursday conference call with reporters. “These closures will have a huge impact on our employees.”


    Although the Colorado closure is more gradual, giving time to to work with the Legislature for the transition, “the work starts now,” Highley also said.

    He said the company is working proactively with the Legislature to make sure it meets greenhouse gas obligations, while also maintaining stable rates, transitioning resources responsibly and providing certainty for members…

    Tri-State had three units at Craig. Station 1 was already shutting down, under a settlement agreement related to the state’s regional haze plan. Closure is still online for 2025.

    The regional haze settlement also included the shuttering of Nucla Station on Montrose County’s West End, where closure had originally been set for completion in 2022. Tri-State, under the direction of its board, finished closures early by taking it offline in 2019.

    Highley said in response to questions asked during the teleconference that Tri-State worked with affected communities and recognizes the need for support.

    Craig Unit 2 had been set for closure in 2038 and Unit 3 was set for closure in 2044. The units now will close by 2030 and Colowyo will go into reclamation that year…

    Highley during the teleconference said Thursday was “a solemn day,” especially for employees, whose dedication he praised.

    “As we make this difficult decision, we do so with a deep appreciation for the contributions of our employees who have dedicated their talents and energy to help us deliver on our mission to our members,” Rick Gordon, chairman of Tri-State’s board of directors said, in an official announcement.

    Tri-State provided wholesale power to Delta-Montrose Electric Association, which last year secured a buy-out for its power contract and is departing the Tri-State cooperative.

    “That’s a move they should have taken a long time ago,” DMEA board president Bill Patterson said, adding he is not certain where Tri-State will obtain the capital to close the plants. “It really doesn’t impact DMEA that much. We made our deal. We’re working on getting the final details done,” he said.

    Pagosa Area Water & Sanitation District board approves 2020 budget — The Pagosa Sun

    Pagosa Springs. Photo credit:

    From The Pagosa Sun (Chris Mannara):

    At a regular meeting on Dec. 12, 2019, the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD) Board of Directors approved the district’s 2020 budget…

    In an email to The SUN, PAWSD Director of Business Services Aaron Burns noted that the only two changes from the draft budget to the final 2020 budget were an in- crease of $30,000 of unspent super- visory control and data acquisition (SCADA) infrastructure funds from 2019 and an additional $15,000 was added to each water plant; this accounts for increased regulatory monitoring requirements, accord- ing to Burns.

    Within the final 2020 budget, PAWSD’s General Fund balance is expected to start at $939,542, a 2 percent decrease from last year; PAWSD’s ending balance within the 2020 budget is projected at $871,865, which is a 7 percent decrease from last year’s total of $940,292.

    Total revenues for PAWSD are projected to go up 3 percent this year, with the 2020 budget reflect- ing total revenues of $1,115,707 — up from last year’s total revenue of $1,081,087.
    PAWSD’s total expenditures are also expected to increase 7 per- cent, going from last year’s total of $1,101,840 to $1,183,384 in 2020.

    For its Water Enterprise Fund, PAWSD is expected to see a 7 per- cent increase in its beginning fund balance, with totals going from $5,534,767 to $5,935,717 in 2020 and the ending fund balance total expected to go up 5 percent, from $5,916,044 to $6,215,778.

    PAWSD’s Water Enterprise Fund looks to have an 8 percent in- crease in regard to total revenues, with revenues totaling $6,005,467 compared to last year’s total of $5,574,570.

    Total expenditures for the Water Enterprise Fund are expected to increase 10 percent, going from $5,193,293 to $5,725,406 in 2020.

    PAWSD’s Wastewater Enter- prise Fund will have a 23 percent increase in its beginning fund bal- ance, increasing from $2,552,203 to $3,140,125; the ending fund bal- ance for the wastewater fund is ex- pected to increase from $3,129,565 to $3,252,712, which is an increase of 4 percent.

    PAWSD’s total revenues for its wastewater fund are projected to have no change, according to the 2020 budget.

    PAWSD’s total expenditures for its wastewater fund are projected to increase 22 percent, going from $2,166,108 to $2,636,374 in 2020.

    U.S. House votes to crack down on toxic chemicals; Trump threatens veto — The #Colorado Independent #PFAS

    From The Colorado Independent (Allison Stevens):

    The U.S. House voted Friday to pass a comprehensive legislative package that would crack down on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, a class of chemicals known as PFAS that are said to cause serious health problems.

    Used in tape, nonstick pans and other everyday substances, PFAS have been linked to cancer, decreased fertility, developmental delays and other conditions and have been found in high concentrations in sources of public drinking water and other sites around the country.

    The PFAS Action Act includes a series of provisions designed to mitigate their harm. It cleared the House with support from 223 Democrats and 24 Republicans. One hundred and fifty seven Republicans voted against it, as did one Democrat and Michigan independent Rep. Justin Amash. Twenty-four lawmakers did not vote.

    Colorado’s delegation was split on the vote, with Democratic representatives voting for the bill and Republicans voting against it…

    Friday’s vote came after supporters of the legislation suffered a stinging setback last month, when key PFAS provisions were struck from the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) before it was signed into law.

    Opposition to those provisions from Senate Republicans prompted House Democrats to call the PFAS bill to the floor this month, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Friday.

    “Last year, our members worked relentlessly to pass bold legislation to tackle the PFAS crisis,” Pelosi said on the House floor. “Unfortunately, at the end of the year, the Senate GOP refused to join the House to secure full, robust protections against PFAS chemicals and key provisions were cut from the NDAA.”

    The “Senate GOP obstruction,” she said, “is why we are here today.”

    The NDAA does take some steps to address PFAS. It includes provisions that require the U.S. military to transition off of PFAS-laden fire-fighting foam by 2024, ban the foam in exercises and training and test PFAS levels in military firefighters’ blood.

    But supporters said the PFAS Action Act passed Friday goes much further.

    It would require the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to list certain PFAS chemicals as hazardous substances under the EPA’s Superfund program, which would accelerate cleanup of contaminated sites. That would be a “significant first step while we allow the EPA to study the remaining compounds — which needs to start now,” Dingell said in a press release.

    The bill would also create a national drinking standard for certain PFAS chemicals, help people understand water testing results, prevent new PFAS chemicals from being approved and more…

    Colorado public health officials acknowledge federal action on creating a legally binding drinking water standard is lagging, forcing the state to address a public health crisis it’s ill-equipped to handle. The state is in the process of adopting new regulations after finding PFAS levels above the federal health advisory limit in groundwater across the Denver metro region, Colorado Springs and Boulder County. In September, lawmakers approved $500,000 so that the Colorado Department of Public Health can begin testing public drinking water supplies for the toxic chemical…

    Despite its bipartisan support in the House, the bill faces an uphill battle.

    First, it must pass the GOP-controlled Senate, where hundreds of House-passed bills are languishing on the desk of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) told Bloomberg News that the legislation had “no prospects in the Senate.”

    If it passes the Senate, then it would move to the White House, which issued a veto threat on Tuesday…

    The EPA is already “taking extensive efforts” to address PFAS across the nation, it added — an assertion underscored by the EPA in a statement released on the same day as the White House veto threat.

    But critics say the EPA’s “action plan” doesn’t go far enough to contain and clean up PFAS and are skeptical the agency will put public health over corporate profits.

    PFAS contamination in the U.S. via

    Summitville retrospective #superfund

    Here’s a look at the history of the Summitville Superfund Site from Kenneth Jessen I that’s running in The Loveland Reporter-Herald. Here’s an excerpt:

    Gold was panned throughout 1870 until winter arrived. The following spring a new rush of prospectors came into the area, but poor yields discouraged most, and by the end of the summer, they left the area.

    [J.L. Wightman] plus two others remained and took their gold dust to Denver, receiving $170.

    They did not give up and when the source of the gold was discovered, it led to the establishment of Summitville and underground mining.

    A post office opened in 1876, and the town grew to become the largest gold producing camp in Colorado. The town’s population fluctuated from 300 to 600, enough to support 14 saloons and the publication of the Summitville Nugget…

    Summitville was reborn when large-scale mining to remove low-grade ore resumed in 1934. The post office reopened, and 70 new homes were constructed of milled lumber along with a bathhouse, bunkhouses and large dining hall. Summitville also got its own school and its population swelled to an estimated 1,500.

    The mine continued to operate, but due to the harsh weather and deterioration of its buildings, Summitville was again abandoned. Miners and mill workers were brought in by bus from Del Norte…

    Mining ended in 1992 after a cease and desist order by the Environmental Protection Agency.

    Part of the problem was overflow from the heap leach ponds combined with leaks in the liner allowing potassium cyanide to flow into the nearby stream.

    A much bigger problem, however, was the toxic contents of the water coming from the open pit mine and old abandoned tunnels. The water in this area is naturally acidic and for that reason, it dissolves the metals found in the ground and in waste rock. The combination rendered the Wightman Fork of the Alamosa River void of aquatic life for many miles.

    The mine owner, Canadian Galactic Resources, soon filed for bankruptcy.

    The Environmental Protection Agency was left holding the bag for the cleanup to the tune of around $255 million including $18 million for a water treatment plant.

    Galactic Resources paid around $30 million in a settlement. Colorado has now taken over the operation of the plant costing taxpayers about $2 million per year potentially forever.

    A visitor to Summitville will see about two dozen abandoned buildings sitting in a meadow and with a beautiful backdrop of high mountains. The ramshackle cabins are split into two groups: one by the road and the other on the hillside.

    Summitville Mine superfund site

    #Colorado rafting team falls short in second attempt at speed record down the #GrandCanyon — The Colorado Sun

    The U.S. Rafting Team has enlisted three veteran Grand Canyon guides in a mission to set a new speed record for descending the Colorado River’s 277 miles through the canyon. The team tested a new raft design last month on the Ruby Horsethief and Westwater canyons, rowing from Loma to Utah’s Dewey Bridge in about nine hours. (Robbie Prechtl, special to The Colorado Sun)

    From The Colorado Sun (Jason Blevins):

    They finished in 37 hours, 55 minutes, missing the 34-hour, 2-minute record set by kayaker Ben Orkin in 2016.

    As the miles and minutes passed, the crew on the customized cataraft was feeling strong and pulling hard on their oars, but their pace slipping.

    “We just didn’t have enough water,” said John Mark Seelig, whose Colorado-based U.S. Rafting Team was joined by three veteran Colorado River guides on Friday and Saturday in a speed-record attempt to descend 277 miles through the Grand Canyon

    As the river dipped to 10,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) and the crew outraced a pulse of water released from the Glen Canyon Dam upstream, the record slipped away…

    The team of eight arrived at Phantom Ranch, at mile 88, at 11 a.m. on Friday, about 11 hours after they pushed into the Colorado River from Lees Ferry. That was only four minutes off their pace to reach the Pearce Ferry takeout around 10:20 a.m. Saturday. But that was also the peak of the surge released from Glen Canyon Dam. Holding close to a 5 mph rowing speed, the water slowed down with each mile. By midnight, the river had dropped from a daily high of close to 14,500 cfs to around 10,500 cfs

    Speed records have a long history in the Grand Canyon, dating back to 14-day descents in the late 1800s on log rafts captained by adventurers who likely weren’t racing but simply rowing. In 1951 Grand Junction brothers Bob and Jim Rigg set out to purposely set the speed record. They pushed their wooden row boat into the river at Lees Ferry when the river was roaring at 43,100 cfs and finished in 52 hours and 41 minutes. That record stood until 1983, when Kenton Grua, Rudi Petschek and Steve Reynolds caught another flood-stage flow and rowed their wooden dory, the “Emerald Mile,” down the canyon in 36 hours, 38 minutes.

    In January 2016, Orkin, an accountant in Aurora, paddled his carbon-fiber race kayak solo down the canyon, finishing in 34 hours and 2 minutes. That record was even more remarkable considering he flipped in Lava Falls and swam from his kayak, alone and at night.

    The team this weekend had a clean run with zero mishaps.

    Lava Falls: “This, I was told, is the biggest drop on the river in the GC. It’s 35 feet from top to bottom of the falls,” John Fowler. The photo was taken from the Toroweap overlook, 7 June 2010, via Wikimedia.

    “We got our revenge on Lava. The boat was fantastic. Everything and everyone held up perfectly. We ran the lines we wanted,” Seelig said. “The water just wasn’t there for us.”

    Orkin was paddling a narrow, sleek craft that sliced through water. The Emerald Mile was a wooden dory meant to cut through the river. The raft carrying eight — even with a pair of narrow pontoons beneath a lightweight frame — pushes water out of its way. It might not be possible for a raft to set a speed record in the Grand Canyon…

    “OK, if someone was like ‘Hey, I have a permit on this date and it’s going to be this flow’ and we have a crew that is training — that’s a lot of variables — maybe who knows,” Seelig said. “But right now, I’m like ‘No way. Never again.’”

    Map of Grand Canyon National Park via the NPS