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.
In the 6 month period beginning in November, 2013, the Utah DWR has promised FERC that it will complete the final Water Needs Assessment, Socioeconomics and Water Resource Economics, Land Use Plans and Conflicts, and other associated study reports incorporating the GOPB’s 2012 final population projections released in January 2013, Utah Governor’s revised 25% reduction goal by 2025, and the Bureau of Reclamation’s Virgin River Climate Change Analysis study, incorporate the Bureau of Reclamation’s updated CRSS model results into the Surface Water Resources, Surface Water Quality, and Socioeconomics final study reports, revise the Draft Class III Archaeological and Historic-Era Resources report to the Utah and Arizona SHPOs, incorporate the natural gas pipeline alternative into all applicable study reports, provide further study results to agencies for review and comment, coordinate with the agencies on mitigation measures, complete the preliminary draft biological assessment, complete final study reports for all disciplines, complete the Preliminary Licensing Proposal, and undertake other consultations as appropriate.
Although this is a significant amount of new or modified information, the Lake Powell Pipeline Management Commissioners noted in their last 2013 meeting that there would be no opportunities for public comment until the Preliminary Licensing Proposal is submitted to FERC.
Once the Preliminary Licensing Proposal is complete, there will be an opportunity for public comment. CDF will let you know how to participate in this process. This 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 (check back frequently):
May, 2014 Apply for preliminary license with FERC
May – August, 2014 90 day public comment period
May – November, 2014 Prepare and file final hydropower license application with FERC
late 2014 – 2015 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.