ON Kilter: Lake Powell Pipeline, dead at last

Lake Powell Pipeline proposal - dead in the water? March 23, 2013 | Image by Sarafina Amodt, St. George News

OPINION – The Lake Powell Pipeline may at long last have taken a fatal blow.

The project, succinctly packaged and marketed by the Washington County Water Conservancy District, has been under intense scrutiny from the community as well as outspoken opponents for at least the last two years, mostly with regards to its enormous and somewhat obtuse cost.

Last year, Iron County backed out its support for the pipeline citing as one of its main concerns that its citizens objected to paying for it. Kane County has done similarly.

Furthermore, the Census Bureau reported population estimates dramatically lower than the projections outlined in the pipeline proposal.

Add to those countercurrents the twice-failed attempt by the Washington County Water Conservancy District to gain additional funding for the project through earmarked sales taxes or similar state revenue considerations.

One would think the writing was on the wall some time ago.

Now, a new report by Western Resource Advocates seems to have sealed once and for all the fate of the project.

What remains to be seen is if, at long last, the district will get the message that this pipeline is a pipe dream that is too costly and unnecessary.

According to The Spectrum and Daily News, regarding the Western Resource report:

“The ‘Local Waters Alternative to the Lake Powell Pipeline’ report contends that efficiency measures alone could provide more than 60 percent of the water the pipeline would bring. Include agricultural water transfers and reuse, and the county could meet its demand until 2060 and beyond at a third of the cost of building a new pipeline, said Amelia Nuding, author of the report and water-energy analyst with Western Resource Advocates.”

What interests me here is the nagging question, what is, or was, the real motive for the pipeline?

In the face of so much credible and notable opposition, the proposed project’s advocates seemed unaffected by anything that suggested that there might not only be better ways to solve pending water issues and by anything that suggested the actual need was being exaggerated.

Motives like, say, a nuclear power plant on the green river? Or how about a paper mill in Washington County?

These things were outlined in the Lake Powell Pipeline report as possibilities but really had little or nothing to do with providing water for the taxpaying citizens of the county.

Perhaps what is needed to ascertain the driving force behind the water conservancy district’s urgency in pushing this project through is an understanding of how it would generate revenue.

The role of a water conservancy district, under Utah’s Water Conservancy District Act, might be summarized in simple terms as that of handling water issues for the state and thereby generating revenue to carry out its role through the lease or sale of water.

If this is so, then why does the Washington County Water Conservancy District predominantly generate revenue through property taxes?

Property taxes, mind you, that would increase exponentially in the form of impact and other fees for the new construction that would invariably come with the growth the LPP Report projected.

Are you connecting the dots the way I am?

By proposing draconian consequences to the general public if the pipeline is not hurried along, an irrational frenzy was created; but, the actual numbers of the project failed to pass many musters – including the state of Utah’s.

As a citizen and taxpaying member of this county, is it not incumbent upon me, or you for that matter, to ask our county’s water conservancy district what precisely they were really trying to do?

Was it to provide water for the residents or was it to create industry and projects for developers at the expense and burden of the taxpayers?

Perhaps the stewardship of the money entrusted to the district should be questioned.

For instance, did you know that the Washington County Water Conservancy District spent upwards of $100,000 producing short and entertaining films to promote the project?

One of the films, Liquid Desert, presented a colorful and somewhat revisionist history of the region and how it was settled by Mormon pioneers under the orders of Brigham Young. Trying desperately to present itself as a documentary, it really was a subversive commercial for the project that appealed to the Mormon community of Southern Utah, leaning on a Zionist sense of entitlement to justify the audaciously expensive project.

The bottom line is, it looks as though this water conservancy district may be on the retreat from its proposed Lake Powell Pipeline project and finds a convenient escape clause via the Western Resource Advocates report. The district’s trustees will concede to the report, making it appear to the community that in light of this “new” information they believe the sensible thing to do is to shelve the project for now.

Oh the irony.

Citizens for Dixie’s Future and the Utah Rivers Council have been telling them the exact same things based on the same data for years.

The district is headed up by a board of trustees who are hand selected with perfunctory regard for a required application process as seats come to term. These are appointed individuals who have the ability to levy tax, collect tax, and impose fine or punishment for not paying the tax, yet have no real clear line of accountability to anyone.

Last year, the district took its required applications for three open seats on the board, a move that appeared to be democratic but proved to be a disingenuous gesture to appease a questioning public. Applicants were not even given interviews and the same people whose terms had expired were reappointed to the board.

I don’t know about you, but perhaps it is time for the people of the county to take a closer look at the operations of its water conservancy district. Its financials appear to receive an independent audit annually – the last posted on its website is for 2011. Maybe, it’s time for a more detailed audit or analysis?

At the end of  the day, it is our money that pays for their work and they should be dramatically more accountable to and more representative of the people than they are currently.

Think about it.

See you out there.

Related Posts

Water deficit expected; district takes counteractive measures

Commission retains current water district board members

Gardner, White contrast on public lands, water district and county government

Residents complain of municipal water waste, city responds

Water Conservancy District and Sales Tax Appropriations – If we don’t grow, we die?

The Lake Powell Pipeline continues to polarize

The Lake Powell Pipeline Paper Chase

 

Ed. note: The author, Dallas Hyland, plays a cameo role of Brigham Young in the WCWCD’s film, Liquid Desert, mentioned in this column.

Dallas Hyland is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

Email: dhyland@stgnews.com

Twitter: @dallashyland

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2013, all rights reserved.

Lake Powell Pipeline proposal - dead in the water? March 23, 2013 | Image by Sarafina Amodt, St. George News
Lake Powell Pipeline proposal – dead in the water? March 23, 2013 | Image by Sarafina Amodt, St. George News

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6 Comments

  • Karen March 23, 2013 at 2:44 pm

    After I read the article in Spectrum, I’m afraid Mr. Hyland’s conclusions might be premature. I hope that isn’t the case since the whole Lake Powell Pipeline concept is flawed from beginning to end. A couple of more points to consider. The people at the Washington County Conservancy District will be loath to concede that the new Taj Mahal building up there by the Sugarloaf is a waste of money. I believe it houses all of 26 staffers in a building designed for far more than that when the Pipeline gets going. They’ll have to think of another use for it but I’m sure they can be creative. Also, I think that a primary motivation for the Pipeline has always been to capture “our fair share” of the Colorado River. As long as just three (and now just two) counties would be paying for it, the Pipeline had the blessing of the Utah Legislature. But now that the pro-Pipeliners need money from taxpayers, the legislature is balking. Hopefully, it may be the beginning of the end of the project. One can only hope.

    One final thought. I have waited and waited for some real analysis of the need for the Pipeline from the conservancy district based on more than outdated population projections. All we get is such nonsense as “the pioneers did hard things so we can too” and “we like European gardens” unlike the citizens of Tucson who “like desert yards.” With logic like that, they are really grasping at straws.

  • Ron March 23, 2013 at 4:01 pm

    I certainly hope this travesty is dead and buried. Thanks for the good news and a great article, Dallas.

  • deb c March 23, 2013 at 10:16 pm

    And the whole time I was hearing about the “powell pipeline” I just was thinking that rationally, we live in the desert and were growing, so we need more water.

  • Curtis March 24, 2013 at 9:25 am

    Hyland may be right but I suspect the Water Conservancy District and its fellow travelers in Washington County are not quite ready to give up yet.. The District is single minded and determined to get its way — witness the travesty of the Board election.

  • Brad April 8, 2013 at 10:45 pm

    I will tell you what the motive is. Speculation. Every person who is for this that doesn’t have speculative land right in the way of this pipeline is unintelligent. If you took a whole crowd of supporters and filtered out the ones who had purchased speculative land, you would have 3 people left and they would all look at eachother dumbly… and stop supporting it. I heard a little rumor that a bunch of power players went in on a mass of land or possibly lots of different sections between here and there, and were/are set to make a killing off of the purchase of their land to put this pipeline in. I wonder how this article makes them feel… I wonder how much their land is worth now. ;(

  • Steve October 2, 2013 at 11:05 am

    So who does supervise and direct the Water Conservancy District? They are so obviously off-balanced and apparently corrupt, something must be done to rid us of these people’s control of our water future.

    And I say this, being a former neighbor of Ron Thompson. I’m disappointed in his one-sided approach to things, which amounts to dishonesty.

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