The difference between governmental warnings is clear; a natural catastrophe is unavoidable, yet preparations are wise; while a terrorist attack can be foiled -- or fail from improper planning -- the citizens of the United States should be caught at every stop sign for safety checks. The United States government says it is working against time to prevent a second 9-11 event, but there has been no inconvenience for citizens outside of a handful of air travel delays since 9-11. Borders are open, and explosive chemicals and ammunition are available to us all at shopping malls and Wal Mart.
The FBI is preparing for all possibilities using knowledge databases, intelligence reports, and through intercepting messages from the most widely known terrorist group, Al Qaeda. What the FBI concludes is, Al Qaeda will not risk experimental means for attack. They plan to "go for gold," striking the jugular vein of the US-economy. Civilian casualties are only a side-bar, not the goal.
Points to consider:
-- 19 percent Arizona
-- 23 percent Nevada
-- 28 percent Metropolitan Water District of Southern California
-- 15 percent Los Angeles
Al Qaeda priorities are not to destroy national symbols, but to bring the US economy to its knees. Biological terrorism is least likely and is only a temporary threat, and yet gets the most media play. Chemical agents disperse quickly in air, toxic contaminants can be cleaned from drinking water at sewage treatment facilities. Although the threat of bio-attack causes public fear, the long term impact is minimal.
On a small scale, the airline industry was impacted most from 9-11; including the Christmas and New Years holiday travel season 2003/2004 with "possible" threats using airplanes as weapons. While government officials eyed the skies, costly resources of manpower and equipment focused only upon rumor. Nothing happened. Airline passenger traffic however has yet to recover from the initial strikes on 9-11, thus Al Qaeda's plans to impact economic progress have worked in this case.
Second-guessing the next attack(s) places the United States at a disadvantage. In war, opposing armies know where enemy camps hide. With a fully exposed infrastructure; a federal government only recently ramping-up for homeland protection; and with an overwhelming land mass of 3,000 miles from one coast to another, and 1,400 miles between Mexico and Canada the task of guessing where the next attack will occur is overwhelming for even the most advanced governmental agency. Despite the rhetoric post 9-11, 93 percent of the U.S. border is free of surveillance.
Since 9-11, and under the radar of the media, small steps have censored information on the Internet. Mapquest.com no longer show satellite images of the United States. There are however websites that charge for aerial shots using your real name and credit card. US-government websites no longer show key infrastructure drawings, architectural plans, or "inundated" flood maps at the base of major dams. Military sonic boom records, NASA space satellite information once available to all for general information purposes are now off-line. Such a coordinated effort between commerce and governmental agencies could be viewed as "progress" for the behemoth US-government.
There is an official list of terrorist targets the FBI and CIA share with the media. There are additional targets these agencies don't make public; although these targets are no less obvious.
Should terrorists manage to level Manhattan bridges and tunnels, the City of New York would be cutoff from the world; however temporary. The impact would be costly, but not catastrophic. The same plan to level the Oakland Bay and Golden Gate bridges would be as costly, but impact commuters more, and for a longer period of time. San Francisco however would not be cutoff. Even due to the nature of California earthquakes, emergency plans are in place for a such an event from natural causes.
Lake Mead is the largest reservoir
in the United States.
What worries the FBI more than commuter inconveniences is a catastrophic event so great, that it would take more than a decade to recover. The destruction of Glen Canyon Dam either by terrorists or by natural causes, and its downstream neighbor Hoover Dam in the Western United States are on the FBI's less publicly known list of targets. The economic impact involving the destruction of these dams would be twofold. Not only would an initial impact cause more devastation than Hurricane Andrew and the Northridge earthquake combined; but a long-term impact would cripple the major cities of Los Angeles, Phoenix, and Las Vegas for years.
The Colorado River has more than 50 dams all together, any of the smaller dams downstream from Glen Canyon would fail from the initial water release. The structure of Hoover Dam itself is in question should Glen Canyon ever fail; however at a minimum, the rush of water would bypass Hoover Dam causing a 500 foot high wall of water to overtake its crest for 11 days. The flood damage caused by destroying both dams simultaneously can only be speculated.
In December 2003, Living Rivers organization lost their 18-month court battle with the Bureau of Reclamation to force the release of "inundation maps" which accurately detail the impact of Glen Canyon's fall. Judge Tena Campbell, US District Court of Utah, denied Living Rivers access to the maps saying they were of no value to the public. Living Rivers lobbied to drain Lake Powell, claiming that Glen Canyon severely impacts the region's ecosystem, and used the arguement that should the dam [ever] fall by natural causes (earthquake or flood,) such liability alone is reason enough to drain Lake Powell.
Even with near drought conditions behind both dams today, the resulting floods from their fall would destroy many river towns along the Colorado including; Laughlin, NV, and Yuma, AZ, as well as Needles and Blythe, CA, and dozens of other small towns populated by recreationalists. The Imperial Valley of Southern California resident to farmland would flood. Sand and rocks from the rush of water would change the lanscape of the lower Colorado River valley, and resulting flood waters would bury fertile land for as much as three years under pools of water.
Hoover Dam contains the largest reservoir (Lake Mead) in the United States, supplying water to 30 million residents with 34,850,000 cubic meters. Glen Canyon reservoir (Lake Powell) holds 33,300,000 cubic meters and is the second largest reservoir in the United States.
The cost to rebuild Glen Canyon, completed in 1966, and Hoover dams would reach $36 billion and could take up to 17 years to complete, which includes water replenishment. The destruction of these two dams would result in the greatest economic catastrophe of modern times. Immediately upon destruction, the most important water and electric power supply would vanish for residents and businesses in the most populated region of the United States.
Prior to terrorist attacks in 2001, the US-government proposed building a traffic bypass on the outflow of Hoover Dam. The project begun in March 2001, is expected to complete in 2007. Specifically, the Hoover Dam Bypass was intended to remove automobile traffic from the crest of Hoover Dam permanently. Highway 93 would be rerouted across a suspension bridge, safeguarding the dam from hazardous spills or explosions. Project costs expect to run $235 million, and the completion schedule is on track.
Since 9-11 vehicle restrictions on Hoover Dam still apply; commercial trucks, and buses with luggage are prohibited from crossing the dam. During peak travel times, vehicle restrictions remain in effect. Recreational vehicles, U-Haul type trucks, boats and trailers, and pickups with camper shells or other coverings are inspected before crossing. All vehicles, including passenger cars and their contents are subject to inspection. Glen Canyon Dam was constructed with a bridge bypass, vehicles do not have access to cross.
Both Hoover and Glen Canyon dams supply electrical power to the West, and by the "average" consumer costs -- power from these facilities is cheaper than privatized utility companies. A typical residential home supplied by Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (15 percent of LADWP electricity arrives from Hoover Dam) pays 3 cents per kilowatt-hour less than customers of Southern California Edison (5 percent of SCE electricity arrives from Hoover Dam.)
Airline passengers departing McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, have a birds eye view of Hoover Dam. After 9-11 it is plausible (although unthinkable) that a jet could crash into either dam. Whether or not any unforseen impact reduces Hoover or Glen Canyon dams to rubble is as circumspect as it was to plan for the same destruction of World Trade Center towers. However, simply placing ground-to-air missle launchpads at the crest of each dam -- with explicit orders to shoot down any aircraft that attempts approach -- seems a simple, cost-effective and preventive long-term solution.