The consequences of drought at Lake Powell and Lake Mead for the federal government: a $20 million bill.

The National Park Service had to pay for utilities, ramps, sewage facilities and other infrastructure on the lakes to be altered during years of declining water levels.

"Whenever we lose a foot in elevation, we can lose between three and 10 feet horizontally," said Gary Warshefski, deputy superintendent at the Lake Mead National Recreation Area.

The drought eased this year, but Lake Mead is shallower and smaller. At times in the spring of 2002, Warshefski said, the lake lost a foot a week.

The drop played havoc with several of the lake's eight boat launch ramps. It forced the Park Service to experiment with concrete planks and corrugated metal extensions to try to keep them open.

At the Boulder Beach area, permanent public restrooms are near shore when the lake is at capacity; now, people must walk at least a half mile to reach them.

The lower water level and resulting white line on surrounding cliffs, like a bathtub ring, tended to discourage visits.

Lake Powell also suffered before it rose more than 50 feet this year because of a wet winter. The plunging water levels affected power, sewer and water lines for the facilities at the lake's four marinas.

"When the water goes down, marinas have to be pushed out to buoy fields, and they have to be repositioned," said Marianne Karraker, acting public information officer for the lake. And when water levels return, everything needs to move again.

Lake Powell has spent nearly $8 million since 2002 to ensure access to the lake. Last week, the lake reached an elevation of 3,605 feet -- 95 feet below capacity, Karraker said.

Federal officials are not the only ones who have had to shell out big money to keep access to the lake waters: One concessionaire spent $2 million in 2002 to move a huge marina 12 miles.

-- Associated Press