OPINION – I’ve been following the Lake Powell Pipeline activity for over a decade now and have noticed a lot of inconsistencies over the years. They have led to the following conclusion:
We the people of Washington County are being scammed by the “Good Ol’ Boys” to pay for this “pipe dream.” They wish to continue to sell their land – which needs the water resources to sell at a tremendous profit.
To back up the above claim, I offer the following evidence: (…And for those who don’t know who the “Good Ol’ Boys” (or GOB’s) are – they are the major landowners, developers and real estate people who have a lot of “skin in the land-sale game.” This includes the county commissioners, one and all.
1. Over half of the Washington County Water Conservancy District (WCWCD) trustees are tied to major land ownership, housing development, etc. (Ever hear of “conflict of interest??”)
2. The county commissioners hired a lawyer to head the Water Conservancy District rather than someone educated in water resources. This proved advantageous due to his ability to parse his words (like all good lawyers) to evade the truth and facts, and make his point with selective omissions of the actual facts. An example? His veiled truths about the cost of water before and after the pipeline–without considering the financing costs in his examples. With these costs included, the actual cost is four times the current (his reported) cost.
3. The scare tactics used in the WCWCD articles – saying roads would crumble, house foundations would crack, and we would be left with a dust bowl … all if the pipeline wasn’t built! (Sounds like socialist/communist propaganda. Obama would be proud! Think ObamaCare!)
4. Paying copious amounts of pipeline money to hire a professional water system cost estimator from Washington State – Dr. Darryl Olsen – produced an excellent 113-page objective report in 2010 that was never publicized because he told the truth about cost-effectiveness and cost in 2010 dollars for two proposals; first, hydro storage — with a Hurricane storage reservoir @ $2.6 – $3.2 Billion; and second, non-hydro storage @ $1.8 – $2.3 Billion – NOT including financing! Hiring, then, a second water systems estimator from Las Vegas – Jeremy Aguero – whose recommendations echoed the GOB’s ideas of water needs – exactly. Aguero’s biased reports directly oppose those of Dr. Olsen. In my mind, Aguero was paid to fortify input from the GOB’s and WCWCD. Aguero said he received 1,500 pages of reports from the WCWCD. When I questioned Aguero directly, he said the 113-page report from Dr. Olsen was not included! Strange, huh?
5. On June 8, 2008, I submitted an editorial to The Spectrum outlining my estimate of the cost of the pipeline – which I estimated at $3.0 Billion in 2015 dollars – and this was verified by Dr. Olsen’s estimate. Printing of my article forced the WCWCD to re-evaluate the $585 Million cost (2005 estimate) to $1.1 Billion in 2008 dollars (my estimate for 2008 was $1.6 Billion). Since 2008, the $1.1 Billion has remained the same, when the smallest increase (from 2003 – 2005) was 8 percent per year. I know Cedar City/Iron County has wisely dropped out of the Tri-County agreement. And now, with the WCWCD estimating a $950 Million price tag due to Iron County’s withdraw … Where are the cost inflation increases since 2008? Plus, the pipeline new-start construction date has slipped from 2015 to 2020, and completion date from 2020 to 2030. Think about inflation!
6. State Representative Mike Noel of Kane County (who is also executive director of the Kane County Water Conservancy District) presented heated support for the need for water and the Lake Powell Pipeline at the recent Governor’s town meeting on July 25th. But the truth is that the 4,000 residents of Kane County use over 400 gallons per person daily, just for culinary purposes — and the 10 percent water share from the pipeline will be sold by Kane County to a nuclear power plant for cooling – at a very handy profit for Kane County. His county’s water is not for growth, but for profit!
7. At that same Governor’s Water Conservation Conference in St. George, about 40 people spoke at what was billed as a “conservation conference,” but in reality was a forum “for and against” the pipeline. Speakers were local mayors, county commissioners, WCWCD employees, city water employees, including Mike Noel from Kane County (all for the pipeline) and concerned citizens (mostly against the pipeline) – split almost evenly.
Initially I was going to speak on “gray water recovery” (used in homes in at least two dozen “less dry” states, but not in Utah — the second driest state) – but after the St. George mayor and fellow GOB cronies positioned the meeting as referendum on the pipeline, I presented the information on cost from my June 8, 2008 article in The Spectrum. I basically said that the $3.0 Billion cost when financed with 4 percent state bonds for 54 years (the original proposition – to be paid back with impact fees from new homes) will add $7.0 Billion to the cost for financing – for a total cost of $10 Billion.
That’s $185,185,185 principle and interest per year for 54 years. That’s over $185 Million per year! If 1,000 new homes are permitted for construction per year – that’s an $185,000 impact fee per home. I doubt any affordable homes will be built. And if no new homes are built to pay back the state bonds, who pays the state? You and I through water rate increases – $1,233 per person per year, assuming a population of 150,000. Needless to say, taxes and/or water rates will increase – dramatically.
The inequalities here are many, but the greatest is that when the Central Utah Project (Colorado River water to northern Utah) was built (initial estimate $185 Million / Lake Powell Pipeline initial 1995 estimate = $195 Million), the state as a whole paid $450 Million and the Fed is paying the balance of the $3.0 Billion plus cost – not finished yet! This cost of $3.0 Billion had no financing cost. Conversely, the Lake Powell Pipeline does. The $450 million state portion was paid by ALL Utah taxpayers. Conversely, the Lake Powell Pipeline will be paid for just by Washington County residents.
At the recent Governor’s Water Conservation town meeting in St. George, I, along with two fellow opponents of the pipeline, conferred with two representatives from the banking and accounting industries. The representatives informed us the state just received $250 Million in bonding @ 3.2 percent for I-15 roadwork – with 20 years to pay back. These representatives assumed we would get the same deal for the pipeline. But a roadway is a guaranteed fixed and permanent structure — something you can count on. Sufficient water in the Colorado River is not. Utah will not get the 3.2 percent bonding rate for the $10 Billion.
The Colorado River Compact (CRC) written in the early 1900’s splits 15 million + acre feet (flow numbers in the early 1900’s) between the Upper Basin (which includes Utah) and the Lower Basin. An additional 1.5 million acre feet is allotted to Mexico and 975,000 acre feet for Native American tribes. Also written in the CRC was that if over a 10 year period the average flow in the Colorado River falls below 7.5 million acre feet, the Upper Basin loses its rights to water (currently 400,000 acre feet for Utah) in deference to the Lower Basin states.
The flow is currently approaching 9.0 million acre feet and declining yearly, with estimates of 8.0 million acre feet in 2020 or sooner.
My conclusion? “If we build it, it won’t flow!” $10 Billion wasted – and we of Washington County will still have to pay for it!
A more logical solution would be conservation and limiting growth. (Hear that uproar? The GOB’s are up in arms!)
As per the mayor and the WCWCD — Washington County has/will have 85,000 acre feet of replaceable water supplies. At our current wasteful rate of use of 255 gallons per person per day –that’s enough for approximately 350,000 people. With conservation (25 percent), then, we’re good for over 400,000 people which equates perfectly with Vision Dixie’s goal of 385,000 people for grow out of Washington County.
The state had Washington County population projections at 850,000 people (which would require two pipelines!), but readjusted the estimate downward to 585,000. Why do we let Salt Lake City dictate what our population will be? Perhaps they want to spread the congestion and pollution so common up north!
Personally, I’m tired of the “Salt Lake rooster” crowing and the “St. George rooster” just nodding its head. Let’s put on our big boy pants and take charge of our future as we, the people, see fit.
The question you need to ask yourself is: Who will really benefit from the Lake Powell Pipeline? The GOB’s get us to pay for a water supply so they can sell their land to many, many more people. We get the bill for the pipeline and the increased crime, pollution, congestion, etc. that unchecked population growth brings.
Think about it.
We need a vote to defeat the Lake Powell Pipeline.
Submitted by Robert M. Amoroso
Ed. note: Letters to the Editor are presented as received without edit. The opinions stated are those of the writer and not representative of St. George News.
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