Lake Powell Pipeline dominates water forum

Christi Wedig, executive director of the Glen Canyon Institute, speaking against the Lake Powell Pipeline, St. George, Utah, July 26, 2013 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

ST. GEORGE – While some alternative ideas on water conservation and acquisition were suggested at a public forum focusing on Utah’s water future, the Lake Powell Pipeline dominated the evening.

The Utah’s Water Future forum held in St. George was the fifth in an eight-stop forum tour across the state. Created by Gov. Gary Herbert and overseen by handpicked water experts, the purpose of the forum is to gather ideas from the public on how Utah may best maintain and secure “the state’s life blood” for the future.

The line of speakers at the Utah's Water Future public forum. Speakers consisted of Washington County officials, Kane County officials, city  mayors, members of Citizens for Dixie's Future, and county residents unaffiliated with an particular group, St. George, Utah, July 26, 2013 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George New
The line of speakers at the Utah’s Water Future public forum. Speakers consisted of Washington County officials, Kane County officials, city mayors, members of Citizens for Dixie’s Future, and county residents unaffiliated with an particular group, St. George, Utah, July 26, 2013 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George New

The forum was housed in the Dunford Auditorium on the Dixie State University campus and was packed, with late arrivals left standing at the back.

The continuing debate

It didn’t take long for the Lake Powell Pipeline to be mentioned: Jim Eardley, Washington County Commission chair and the second of the speakers at the forum, took the floor and read a letter that represented the unanimous view of the county commission.

The commission challenged the naysayers of the pipeline, noting that the so-called “same people” decried the creation of the Quail Creek and Sand Hollow reservoirs due to the costs attached.

Water is key to our life and our community,” he said. “That pipeline is needed now.”

Mike Small, president of Citizens for Dixie’s Future, immediately followed Eardley. Small said the pipeline is too expensive, claiming interest on the $1 billion project would actually make it $4 billion instead.

We cannot afford it,” Small said, “conservation is a better choice.”

Small also said the true price of water should be paid by Washington County residents, rather than be subsidized by property taxes. If this were done, it would encourage conservation by directly impacting water-users’ pocketbooks.

The lines for and against the Lake Powell Pipeline were clearly drawn after that point. Of the 28 speakers at the forum, 11 spoke in favor of the pipeline while 13 spoke out against it. The remaining four spoke on potential alternatives to the pipeline such as exploration for deep-water aquifers, or tapping into the water at Snake Valley in northwest Utah.

Some of the speakers said conservation and innovation need to be brought together – it can’t be one over the other.

Alternatives?

Conservation won’t help in a prolonged drought,” said Fred Johnson, a geologist from Virgin who was in favor of using water from Snake Valley for Southern Utah, while also promoting a search for additional water within the county.

The Washington County Water Conservancy District is currently working with the Utah Geological Survey and identifying potential deep-aquifer location, Ron Thompson, general manager of the conservancy district, said.

An exploratory well is likely to be drilled this fall, Thompson said.

Former director of Citizens for Dixie’s Future and current executive director of the Glen Canyon Institute, Christi Wedig, said she didn’t agree with the idea of going after the water in the Snake Valley. Instead, all of the water in Washington County needs to be made available, she said.

We have huge amounts of water not accounted for,” Wedig said, and claimed there is an additional 100,000-acre feet of water available under Sand Hollow that the water conservancy district isn’t talking about.

In order to get an accurate idea of just how much water there is in the county – and statewide – Wedig said Citizens for Dixie’s Future and the Glen Canyon Institute are supporting a petition put out by the Utah Rivers Council calling for an audit of the Utah Division of Water Resources.

Residents unable to attended Thursday night’s forum can still participate online by submitting ideas via the Utah’s Water Future website.

Resources:

Related posts:

Email: mkessler@stgnews.com

Twitter: @MoriKessler

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

Christi Wedig, executive director of the Glen Canyon Institute, speaking against the Lake Powell Pipeline, St. George, Utah, July 26, 2013 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News
Christi Wedig, executive director of the Glen Canyon Institute, speaking against the Lake Powell Pipeline, St. George, Utah, July 26, 2013 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

 

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4 Comments

  • Chad July 26, 2013 at 3:58 pm

    Conservation is the only long term solution!

    • Bender July 26, 2013 at 5:51 pm

      Wrong. Pricing water at its actual cost is the only long term solution.

  • Bender July 26, 2013 at 6:11 pm

    I see three county commissioners who pay lip service to free markets but are all about having the little guy bear the burden of financing water delivery projects that give huge payouts to the pioneer royalty who are sitting on inherited land they can’t develop without more water.
    .
    If water were priced at its actual cost here in Washington County we would be 50+ years out from needing a two billion dollar capital investment in a pipeline.
    .
    To compare the Lake Powell Pipeline to the early water delivery projects the pioneers built here is nothing short of complete disrespect for their legacy. They built these canals and pipelines by extraordinary sacrifice. In kind labor and crude tools were used with backbreaking labor. The end result was enough water to survive. Now we have fat cats in air conditioned offices dreaming up ways to enrich local developers by burdening the population with back breaking debt. Pioneer spirit indeed. Just another manifestation of the same local ethics possessed by Jeremy Johnson, et al.

  • Christi Wedig July 29, 2013 at 11:45 am

    It is important to note that of the 11 in favor of the pipeline, 9 were elected officials, water board members, or city employees. Most of the unaffiliated public were opposed to the pipeline. It was a good effort to stack the deck, but a little closer looks shows the true feeling of the general public – No Lake Powell Pipeline.

    Here is the breakdown:
    1 – Washington County Commissioner
    2 – Washington County Mayors
    1 – State Representative
    1 – Kane County Water Board Member
    3 – Washington County Water Board Member
    1- St. George City Conservation Director
    (1 – Former State Representative)

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