Despite recent population projections that show the Lake Powell Pipeline is not needed for 10-30 years, the state is pushing ahead with the Lake Powell Pipeline studies. These studies have cost Utahns $24.7 million dollar so far. The state and Washington County are anticipating an increase in population growth that would revive the plans for the Pipeline.
Once the Study Reports are complete, there will be an opportunity for public comment. CDF will let you know how to participate in this process. The completed study reports will be followed by an Environmental Impact Statement that would be considered valid for 10 years. The EIS must be completed prior to construction.
Upcoming Important Dates:
June 28, 2013 Final Draft study reports completed
August 30, 2013 Mitigation reports completed
October 4, 2013 Apply for preliminary license with FERC
October 4 – January 3 90 day public comment period
March 7, 2014 Final hydropower license application with FERC
2014 Environmental Impact Study
The Lake Powell Pipeline project spans 139 miles and would pump approximately 86,000 Acre Feet of water from Lake Powell to Washington, and Kane Counties. Current cost estimates for this project range from $1.4 to $2.4 billion. The entire repayment burden will fall on the shoulders of Washington and Kane County residents. The Washington County Water District has pushed for this project despite the apparent lack of real need. Washington County continues to be the west’s most wasteful water user and can do far more to conserve and live sustainably in the desert.
The discussion about the Lake Powell Pipeline must center on cost and actual need for the project by 2020. Local citizens and future generations will bear the cost of this $2 billion government project. Initial project costs were estimated at $250 million and have now skyrocketed to over $2 billion. The citizens of Washington County have a right to know how much they will pay in higher impact fees, surcharges, and taxes for the proposed Lake Powell Pipeline. Yet, in the four year, $24 million study, the Washington County Water Conservancy District (Water District) has not answered any of these questions. They have also failed to explain how the Water District will pay the $70 million annual bond payments when current water sales revenues only total approximately $6 million.
Impact fees for future growth have been targeted to pay for the Lake Powell Pipeline. In 2006, when the cost for the Pipeline was estimated to be $500 million, water impact fees were projected to go up to $25,000 by 2040. Since 2006, price has increased dramatically, with some estimates reaching over $2 billion. Non-value added increases in housing costs will hurt our economy. Can the residents of Washington County afford this?
The Water District’s forecast for water demand is artificially high. Their estimates incorporate unrealistic population forecasts, outdated water use data, and unreasonably low estimates of future water conservation. The recession has dramatically changed the picture of growth in our area. We can no longer rely on growth to fund the Pipeline. Ultimately, it will fall on residents to pay for the Lake Powell Pipeline.
Depending on the diminishing Colorado River for future water supply is unsustainable. Recent reports from the Bureau of Reclamation show that the river is over allocated flows will continue to decrease. Read more on the Colorado River Water Supply and Demand Study. Investing billions of dollars into a project that may not produce water in the future is a financial risk not worth taking. Water Conservation is the Least Expensive Option
A less costly, practicable, achievable alternative should be studied to meet current and future water supply demand. Water conservation reductions should be implemented across all sectors including residential indoor and outdoor use, commercial, industrial, secondary, agriculture, and institutional water use.
Washington County has some of the highest per capita use and the lowest prices for the water in the west. CDF believes a higher priority should be placed on boosting local water supplies, increased conservation, pricing strategies, efficiency, and reuse that could result in significant cost savings and provide enough water for growth. CDF is not anti-growth; we are for fiscal responsibility and growing smarter without burdening the county with massive debt.
The Utah Board of Water Resources submitted to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) four modified draft study reports for the Lake Powell Pipeline. The four study reports were modified to consider natural gas to power the pumps of the pipeline. The modified draft reports are for air quality, noise, socioeconomics, and visual resources. CDF has commented on these studies, you can read these comments here. The final 23 study reports will be finished in September and ready for public comment. They will be used in the application for FERC’s hydropower License for the Lake Powell Pipeline and be the basis for the decisions made in the upcoming Draft Environmental Impact Statement.