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Wrench In Lake Powell Pipeline Proposal? State Wants To Know If More Federal Agencies Will Decide

Judy Fahys/KUER
The Virgin River, shown here flowing through St. George, is the main water source for Washington County, so the state has applied to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to build a pipeline to bring water from Lake Powell.

The state’s making progress on its proposal for the Lake Powell Pipeline. But now it’s asking to pause its federal license long enough to get an answer to a crucial question.

The state has spent more than a decade and $32 million to get the pipeline application ready. So, the Utah Division of Water Resources was pleased last month when Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC, okayed the next step on the multi-billion-dollar project.

But pipeline proponents have a new concern since FERC’s saying it might not be the only agency vetting the application. Other agencies might be making some of the key decisions, too.

“There’s a lot of unknowns there as far as what that would mean,” says Joel Williams, assistant director of Utah’s water resources agency. “I don’t know at this point how much it would change the process.”

Credit KUER / Judy Fahys
Quail Creek Reservoir near St. George would be used to store Lake Powell water for use in southwestern Utah. This is one element of the pipeline project that federal agencies are reviewing.

Now the state’s asking FERC to promise that it’s reviewing the entire 140-mile project, not just the hydroelectric facilities. The division’s worried that agencies like the Bureau of Land Management and the Bureau of Reclamation will also have to sign off. That could mean more red tape, and it could take longer.

“It leaves it a little up in the air,” Williams says, “for people that want to comment and to know who does have jurisdiction over that portion.”

Last week the state asked to postpone a February 9 deadline for public input. It wants to know first which agencies will be deciding the project’s fate.

Whether the pipeline is needed, who will pay for it and how much it will impact the environment are all questions the federal government is considering.

The Utah Division of Water Resources Petition to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission by KUER News on Scribd

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