The Lake Powell Pipeline would haul Utah’s last big share of Colorado River water uphill from Lake Powell, bring it halfway across the state and deliver it to fast-growing Kane and Washington Counties.
State water officials plan to submit an application to build the pipeline on Monday. But the controversial water project still faces many hurdles before it can get a license.
Eric Millis, executive director of the Utah Division of Water Resources, says it’s a large, complicated proposal, so it’s understandable that preliminary paperwork has already attracted over 200 comments.
“We don’t see that feedback necessarily as positive or negative,” he says, “but are trying to look at it objectively and use that to improve the reports.”
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the licensing agency, will oversee an-depth study that weighs the need for the pipeline with its impacts. Millis says that evaluation could take two years.
But critics are already questioning whether the pipeline is a good idea at a cost of more than one billion dollars. Nevada water officials worry it will harm the quality and quantity of water downstream. Native American tribes fear it will damage the region’s cultural resources. Wildlife officials say the effects on endangered species need more study.
“I think the FERC documents in support of the application were incomplete because they did not look at the economic impact of this very, very expensive pipeline,” says Sky Chaney, founder of the Taxpayer Association of Kane County.
Chaney says other alternatives would cost much less and do less harm to the environment. But state lawmakers seem to have set the stage for building the pipeline by creating a fund this year to funnel sales taxes into water projects.