The list of dramatic, unprecedented steps necessitated by the megadrought parching the western U.S. is growing. In addition to the discovery of the first — though likely not the last — human remains, revealed as water levels fall to historic lows, the federal government is taking drastic measures to prevent the loss of electricity generation at the Glen Canyon Dam below Lake Powell. The reservoir is also being inundated by unprecedented amounts of sediment. The Bureau of Reclamation will hold back 480,000 acre-feet of water and will release an additional half-a-million acre-feet from the Flaming Gorge Reservoir, up the Colorado River in Wyoming, to bolster water levels.
The extraordinary action “reflects the truly unprecedented challenges facing the Colorado River Basin and will provide operational certainty for the next year,” said Tanya Trujillo, the federal Interior Department’s assistant secretary for water and science, in a statement announcing the measures. Climate change, mainly caused by the extraction and combustion of fossil fuels, makes droughts worse and more frequent.
The bodies could date back to the days when organized crime ran the Las Vegas strip. “There’s no telling what we’ll find in Lake Mead,” former Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman told the AP. “It’s not a bad place to dump a body.”
(Lake Powell: (New York Times $, AP, LA Times $, KNAU, E&E News, CNN, Reuters, The Hill, CNBC, Deseret News; Sediment: Casper Star-Tribune; Human remains: 8NewsNow, New York Times $, Gizmodo, Washington Post $; Mob history: AP; Climate Signals background: Western US megadrought)
Update: This story has been updated to include organized crime history.