By Phil Clark
Lake Powell Chronicle
PAGE – Utah state water officials announced on Oct. 29 that a federal agency will take up review of the Lake Powell Pipeline project and determine if it is environmentally sound to move forward.
The U.S. Department of the Interior last Tuesday notified the Utah Board of Water Resources that the National Environmental Policy Act compliance for the pipeline project will be handled by the Bureau of Reclamation, according to the Utah Division of Water Resources. The project would move 86,000 acre-feet of Colorado River water to St. George, Utah.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission was the original lead agency. However, the UDWR withdrew its application to the FERC, which the state of Utah had requested be the sole permitting agency on the project. The project is controversial with a number of environmental and economic concerns. According to a High Country News article dated Oct. 29, 2018, more than a decade after it was first proposed, no one seems to know what the pipeline — with 140 miles of buried pipe and five pumping stations between Lake Powell and the town of St. George — is going to cost, much less how it will impact local water rates.
“Communications from within Utah’s state water agencies . . . suggest officials purposefully withheld those details from the very taxpayers who might ultimately be saddled with the bill. Federal officials also seem wary of the state’s scanty financial information,” the article reads. “In September 2018, the (FERC) declined to take action that would have exempted the state from more rigorous financial scrutiny.”
Perhaps now with the FERC deciding no need to take action, the project will push forward under the leadership of the Bureau. The cost of the project and how it will be funded has not been determined at this time. Other concerns, according Business Wire (businesswire.com), are disruption and damage to natural and cultural resources and effects on wildlife. Details of how these concerns will be address should appear in the NEPA documentation. The Washington County Conservancy District indicates that “any disrupted habitat will be restored, and permanent facilities will be sited away from wildlife highway crossings and designed to limit light/other disturbances.”
“The (UDWR) looks forward to working with (the Bureau) on updating the timeline and cost estimate for the project and completing the Environmental Impact Statement,” said Eric Millis, director of the Utah Division of Water Resources. The LPP would transport up to 86,249 acre-feet of water annually from Lake Powell through a proposed 140-mile buried pipeline to Washington and Kane counties by crisscrossing the Utah and Arizona border.