ST. GEORGE – In a year with increasing controversy over the proposed Lake Powell Pipeline, three positions on the Washington County Water Conservancy District’s board expire and will be filled in December.
The proposed pipeline would stretch nearly 140 miles and bring up to 86,000 acre-feet of water from Lake Powell to Washington and Kane counties. The cost of the pipeline has been estimated at between $1 billion and $2 billion.
Opponents of the project believe it is expensive and unnecessary and that future water needs can be filled without the pipeline. An ongoing series of discussions about financing, alternatives, viability, risks and the basic need for the pipeline are being sponsored by local conservation group Conserve Southwest Utah along with the Utah Rivers Council.
The open positions will be officially announced Monday; the Washington County Commission will conduct interviews and then consider nominees at a commission meeting Dec. 20.
Water district board positions are appointed by the County Commission; board members are countywide representatives who oversee district activities. Daily operations are overseen by district employees including General Manager Ron Thompson.
Currently, the seven-member board consists of Ed Bowler, County Commissioner Zach Renstrom, City of St. George Mayor Jon Pike, Washington City Mayor Ken Neilson, Howard Bracken, former Hurricane Mayor Thomas Hirschi and Jim Ence.
The terms of Bracken, Hirschi and Ence’s board seats are expiring; the other four board members’ terms expire in 2019.
“The commission has really tried to maintain an open selection process since I became commissioner,” County Commissioner Victor Iverson said.
“I will say that it is my opinion that it is good policy to appoint mayors to the board when possible,” Iverson said. “It is the cities that purchase water from the district and will depend on the district for water in the future.”
Some have argued that the board should be elected, Iverson said. Having elected officials on the board comes closer to an elected representative board while still maintaining the continuity of a board that is tasked with long-term water planning needs, he said.
“There is also a need to have a voice for smaller water companies and smaller water users represented, which is why I favor someone like Ed Bowler on the board,” Iverson said. Bowler serves on several irrigation boards, including the Santa Clara River System.
The Utah Rivers Council has criticized the board appointment, claiming the water district appoints its own board members.
However, the county commission follows the appointment procedures specified in Utah code 17B-1-304, water district spokeswoman Karry Rathje said.
“It’s common for board members to have a longer tenure given the complexity of water management,” Rathje said. “The board manages the district, so it’s important they understand all facets of the district’s operations.”
Water districts that serve more than one county are appointed by the governor with the consent of the Senate, Rathje said. These openings are posted on a state website.
The trend of appointing elected officials to the district’s board allows for public representation, she said.
“Four of our seven board members are current or former elected officials,” she said.
The district was organized by residents who signed a petition requesting taxation to provide for an adequate water supply.
The County Commission is accepting applications for the three water district board positions and one position on the Angel Springs Special Service District Administrative Control Board, a small water district serving the Leeds area.
To qualify for appointment to the board, an individual must be a U.S. Citizen and be a registered voter within the district.
Those wishing to serve on either of the boards should contact the Washington County Commission Office, 197 East Tabernacle in St. George by Thursday, Nov. 17. The application form is available here.
For more information about the current water district board members, see the district’s webpage.
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