WAHWEAP MARINA, Ariz. -- 'Earth First' protesters shouted 'Crack the dam' and 'Free the river' today as Interior Secretary James Watt set out for a birthday party for the nation's second-largest man-made lake.
About two dozen protesters crowded onto an American flag-draped houseboat, displaying signs, one of which read: 'Watt should be shipped to the Planet of Uranus.'
The protest by the radical preservationist group was one of several planned to interfere with the festivities marking man-made Lake Powell's 20th birthday. The group was mourning the death of Glen Canyon, which was filled to create the lake.
Sheriff's deputies were stationed at the dam.
The interior secretary was the keynote speaker at ceremonies hailing the $8 million expansion of Wahweap Lodge and Marina.
Ken Sanders, a spokesman for Earth First, a radical preservationist group, said the lake's anniversary was a somber occasion that resurrects memories of Glen Canyon, a red-rock 'wonder' buried beneath the huge body of water after a 710-foot high concrete dam was constructed on the Colorado River.
'They're celebrating the birthday of Lake Powell. We're holding a funeral for Glen Canyon,' Sanders said.
The group also planned to chide Watt on his department's policies with a special appearance by a 'guerilla theater' called Earth Last.
'We're harassing Watt because he deserves it,' said Sanders. 'He is devastating the national parks and wilderness areas of the nation by pushing for development,' Sanders said.
Law enforcement officials appeared unconcerned about the protest, and were more worried about the thousands of pro-Lake Powell people expected to be in the area.
The main sponsor of the birthday party said Earth First would not hamper the day-log schedule of festivities of christenings, ribbon cuttings, balloon rides, bands and water skiing expeditions.
'As a concessionaire, there's no official position we can take on it,' said Dick Kemp, spokesman for Del E. Webb Recreational Properties, which operates the lake's five marinas.
'Personally, there's a lot of environmental issues that are pertinent now. You don't have to go back 20 years.'
Other sponsors of the event include the gateway cities of Kanab, Utah, and Page, the National Park Service and the Bureau of Reclamation.
The 161,390-acre lake, filled to capacity in 1980, sits on the border of northern Arizona and southern Utah. It was named after John Wesley Powell, who was the first to charter the area in 1869 when he took a 1,000-mile rowboat trip from Green River, Wyo., to lower Grand Canyon.