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Lake Powell Pipeline Among Water Projects Scrutinized

Photo of Lake Powell.
Linde Cater
National Park Service
Critics of Utah's water industry are delighted by a proposal from Gov. Gary Herbert's budget makers to scrutinize water projects in-depth before more taxpayer money is spent on them. One of the questioned projects is the proposed Lake Powell Pipeline.

The first draft of a proposal to construct a giant straw from Lake Powell to southwestern Utah has landed on the desk of federal regulators just as new concerns about the project are being raised in the State Capitol.

The Legislature’s auditors began raising questions about the Lake Powell Pipeline last fall. Then, earlier this month, Governor Gary Herbert’s budget makers called for giving all of Utah’s water programs a hard look – especially the idea of building a billion-dollar pipeline halfway across the state to deliver water to Kanab, St. George and surrounding areas.

Critics are applauding their suggestion to limit taxpayer dollars on water projects until questions like who’s going to pay get answered.

“All of these directives are really important,” says Jane Whalen of the southwestern Utah conservation group, Citizens for Dixie’s Future. “Let’s get some accurate data. Let’s do more on conservation. Let’s kinda turn this around, be fiscally responsible. I hope we’ll be able to implement some of these measures.”

The group, which has called the pipeline a boondoggle for years, is now applauding Herbert’s plan to scrutinize Utah’s water programs, starting with over $8 million in spending next year.

Meanwhile, Utah’s Water Resources Division remains focused on its pipeline application.

“What we want to have is an objective, balanced conversation about how do we meet the needs of a growing population,” says Joshua Palmer, the agency’s spokesman. “And we’re confident in having those conversations and that it’s through collaboration that the best outcomes come to fruition and feel like it’s through collaboration that the best outcomes come into fruition.”

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is taking public and technical comments on the pipeline proposal through February.

Judy Fahys has reported in Utah for two decades, covering politics, government and business before taking on environmental issues. She loves covering Utah, where petroleum-pipeline spills, the nation’s radioactive legacy and other types of pollution provide endless fodder for stories. Previously, she worked for the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah, and reported on the nation’s capital for States News Service and the Scripps League newspaper chain. She is a longtime member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. She also spent an academic year as a research fellow in the Knight Science Journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In her spare time, she enjoys being out in the environment, especially hiking, gardening and watercolor painting.
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