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.
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.
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