Letter to the Editor: County Commissioners express ‘solidarity of opinion’ on Lake Powell Pipeline

Lake Powell, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Utah, date not specified | National Park Service photo, St. George News

OPINION — As commissioners for Washington County, we are frequently asked why we support the Lake Powell Pipeline (LPP). There is no single reason but there are instead a number of threads of thought that woven together form a solidarity of opinion.

In expressing our opinion, we recognize that all of our residents live here for a wide variety of reasons and live here with different expectations for the County’s future. We accept and appreciate the wide variety of backgrounds and expectations.

In our lifetimes we’ve watched St. George and the rest of the County grow and create jobs. With more than 33 thousand children currently enrolled in K-12 in local schools, we feel greatest responsibilities and obligations are to study, plan for, and deploy the necessary infrastructure to meet the requirements imposed by natural growth.

Recent census studies have recognized the St. George Metropolitan area as the nation’s fastest growing. Natural growth and in-migration will not automatically cease. There is no convenient switch that can be flipped to stop growth. Instead we must plan for and manage what is currently happening to ensure a high quality of life for us and those who will follow.

The area has already grown to the point that it is dangerously dependent upon a single source of water, the relatively small geographic drainage area of the Virgin River System. Because of this over-reliance on a singular water source, we are extremely susceptible to water-supply-exhaustion during any period of prolonged drought. These periodic dry spells occur regularly in the modern and historical record.

The LPP as a second-source is critical for this reason alone. The Colorado River and Lake Powell/Flaming Gorge connection collects water over a vast geographic area, providing the water-source-diversification so desperately needed.

Water is the “lubricant” of life and of our economy. More than ever before in our state’s history, Utah needs to lay claim to its share of the water that falls on Utah’s mountains and valleys.

Thirsty states below us seem to better recognize the inherent value of Utah’s water and will spare no expense to beneficially utilize what Utah allows to pass beyond our borders. While costs are important, the opportunity cost of losing this Utah’s water will be unimaginable, and we feel unforgivable.

We know that the LPP is a big investment in our community. It is just one component of a comprehensive water plan that also includes conservation, reuse, and tiered rates that will reward responsible water utilization.

Large water projects are generational and do not come on line quickly. It has been said that with adequate water supply, we must deal with many issues. Without water, there is only one issue we’ll be thinking about, and by then it will be too late.

We have our children and grandchildren enrolled in our local schools. We have a vibrant community that is thriving and offering opportunities, the likes of which we’ve never seen before. Let’s not slam the door in their faces or in the faces of others who have chosen to move to Washington County for its many splendid offerings for people in all stations of life.

The time is now to face forward with enthusiasm and pride for the community we’ve built and created to offer something of great value to all of our residents. We must continue to responsibly plan for our future. LPP like the other great water projects of the past, will play an integral role in keeping Washington County and the St. George metro area an inviting respite in an amazing place to live, work, raise a family or retire.

Let’s not export our most valuable commodity, our children, because we’re too timid to plan for their future and ours.

Submitted by ZACHARY RENSTROM, VICTOR IVERSON and DEAN COX, Washington County Commissioners.

Letters to the Editor are not the product of St. George News, its editors, staff or news contributors. The matters stated and opinions given are the responsibility of the person submitting them; they do not reflect the product or opinion of St. George News.

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33 Comments

  • mercman April 2, 2018 at 10:53 am

    There is no convenient switch that can be flipped to stop growth. There is a way ! Stop selling building permits and regulate growth to the water supply. Sounds easy to me.

    • PatriotLiberal April 2, 2018 at 11:03 am

      But that would stop the inbound flow of the one things conservatives care about: Money.

      • John April 2, 2018 at 12:00 pm

        Panty-fa, I guess you must live off of the state if you believe it’s just conservatives who care about making an honest living.. get that stupid underwear mask off your face and come back to reality !

        • Death Valley April 2, 2018 at 2:57 pm

          Get a life, Johnboy.

          • John April 3, 2018 at 12:06 pm

            Nobody asked you little boy ! Go drink some more Kool-Aid!

        • mesaman April 2, 2018 at 8:39 pm

          Well written, PL. Regardless of the “solidarity” of our elected county officials it does not mean that they are representing those who see the present infrastructure dismally incapable of supporting the present population. Add these to mayors who would probably voice the same solidarity and who are responsible for the present insufficient proactive preparation.

      • jj9384 April 2, 2018 at 2:56 pm

        Conservatives may want growth to raise capital but liberals raise taxes to raise capital.

        • comments April 2, 2018 at 3:21 pm

          Not really. Have you paid attention to all the tax increase proposals from local mormon-republicans? It’s every bit as bad as any “librul” place.

      • comments April 2, 2018 at 3:16 pm

        At the end of the day they aren’t conservatives they are “conservatives”. They are typical of any politicians: loyal to money first and foremost. I’ve seen the same in “librul cities”. I doubt that anything can be done.

  • Pheo April 2, 2018 at 11:15 am

    I get that it is hard to slow the growth, but we could decide to live within our means as a community. As mercman said, we could certainly stop approving massive housing projects and charge more for building permits to reflect the true value of the resources that new home will have to tap into. Living within our means as a community means recognizing that we live in a desert. When we hit 500,000 residents, then what? If there is no magic switch to flip to stop growth now , do you think there will be one in thirty years? Or will we have to watch the natural collapse of our community as property values plummet when there are severe water shortages and no other sources to tap?

    Lastly, I would argue that a vast majority of county residents would rather live in a community of a quarter million people in 30 years rather than one with double that, even if it means (or maybe especially if means) that housing costs/values will rise faster or that our children might be priced out of living here in the future. Again, the decision to cap growth will come eventually. Do we want to cap it at a population number that we want, or should we wait until we are forced to cap it and have a community like the horrible sprawl of Las Vegas, Phoenix, or Los Angeles?

    • comments April 2, 2018 at 3:13 pm

      It’s all driven by money, not what’s best for residents. Local politicians are all in the pockets of developers, so they simply don’t care. By the end of it they’ll have enriched themselves enough to move someplace else. It’s gonna be vegas-style sprawl as far as they can go in every direction.

  • Brian April 2, 2018 at 11:22 am

    That’s ironic, since you and your predecessors have flipped every switch and turned every knob to “Maximum Growth” for the last 30 years. I call it the “Growth at Any Cost” policy, because that’s what it is. If we wanted to live in Orange County or Salt Lake County we’d move there. The fact that we’re the “fastest growing metropolitan area” is a testament to the insanity of our current and previous policies as they relate to growth, yet you toss it around like a badge of honor.

    I’m all for new industries being brought to southern Utah. We can “grow” Washington County without drastically increasing its population. We’re about to have another crash (similar to 2007/2008) and we’ll again wish that construction wasn’t our primary industry.

    “Slow the flow” is usually associated with water conservation (which you may not know since you’re so busy trying to cram a $3 billion pipeline down taxpayers throats) but it should be a slogan for population growth and related policies in southern Utah. This isn’t about “I’m in, shut the door” and “not in my backyard”, this is about managing growth wisely, not just pouring gasoline on it as we do and have.

    • comments April 2, 2018 at 3:10 pm

      exactly. It’s a complete gold rush mentality. Housing construction is not a stable economic foundation, and it’s what this local economy is totally dependent on–boom and bust. And it will crash again, and it may be worse than last time.

    • Real Life April 2, 2018 at 7:24 pm

      Well put Brian.

  • Chris April 2, 2018 at 11:33 am

    If the pipeline makes any sense economically, it should be paid for by the private sector. Why is this never proposed by supposedly conservative politicians? Why should existing residents foot the bill for those who will move here in the future? Yet, that is exactly what the commissioners, and other supporters of the pipeline, are asking us to do. The only objective studies completed to date, by professors at universities within the state, conclude that impact fees cannot pay the entire cost of the project and that existing residents will be saddled with astronomically higher fees to pay off the debt incurred. We are being lied to by the commissioners and by anyone who is touting the necessity of this project. Wake up and see this for what it is–a fraud perpetrated upon us by those who are elected to look after our best interests.

    • comments April 2, 2018 at 3:23 pm

      The private sector would never dream of taking this kind of risk with their own money.

  • comments April 2, 2018 at 12:18 pm

    “solidarity of opinion”=$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

    I’m not so much as opposed to the pipe as I am to how they will pay for the thing. We’ve seen the way our local gov’t treats tax money. Absolutely massive tax base, increasing everyday from all the new residents, and they cry and pout and stomp their feet that they don’t have the money to fix the roads. And cry about not having enough for schools. There is absolutely no reason, with the sort of growth rates we have now, to be saddling us with new taxes. Greed greed greed. Learn to many tax revenue responsibly, AND THE SAME WITH THE WATER. Is this pipe so we build a bunch of new golf courses and artificial lakes? It’s just ridiculous. I even realize you people at the water works are probably a lot less corrupt that the operations of other cities, but that’s no excuse. Give us a frickin’ break– give the greedy ambitions a break. Find a responsible long term solution to pay for your monstrous pipe, and let’s put forth real policies for water conservation (we are a desert, after all, durr). Stop bending over to please developers at the expense of all of us.

    • comments April 2, 2018 at 12:22 pm

      *Is this pipe so they can build a bunch of new golf courses and artificial lakes?

    • comments April 2, 2018 at 2:58 pm

      and another. lol

      *Learn to manage tax revenue responsibly,

      • comments April 2, 2018 at 3:06 pm

        and even more, not a good day for grammar, lol

        *I even realize you people at the water works are probably a lot less corrupt than the operations of other cities

  • DRT April 2, 2018 at 2:11 pm

    This is basic, but so far, I have not seen it addressed by proponents of the pipeline. “Is there any type of assurance that there will be water available to fill the pipeline?” Since water rights are and have been massively contested, particularly in the sw part of the country, are any water rights available? Or is this going to lead to many years of litigation, that are likely to have the water district sucking at a dry pipeline?
    And another thing. Why does this have to be a pipeline all the way? California has found that aqueducts and canals work very well to transport water. And at a fraction of the cost of putting in a pipeline for the entire distance.
    It looks to me like some people are going to either become quite rich, or add enormously to the wealth they already have, because of this pipeline. And the majority of us, are going to pay for it.

    • comments April 2, 2018 at 3:02 pm

      Indeed. And you’re right, the money will enrich a select few individuals at the expense of every citizen in this county, people that are likely already wealthy. All you need to know is “the money will stay among friends”. If they can get a chunk of it paid by the feds and another large chunk paid for by the state it might be one thing, but I trust these politicians about as much as I’d want to sleep with a cobra in my bed.

  • jj9384 April 2, 2018 at 3:29 pm

    I have listened to a lot of conversation on this pipeline, there have been some excellent suggestions. One is growth needs to be slowed down, the current infrastructure cannot keep up with the growth. All you have to do is look at the packed downtown area, we need the new stores and businesses to be moved to outlying areas to lighten the traffic downtown. I keep hearing we don’t need the water, I came from California and you can never have to much water, conservation needs to be a priority and very important but you can’t conserve what you don’t have. The cost of the pipeline needs to be nailed down for sure. As far as paying for it we will all have to pay for it. I have not heard anyone mention what the state of Utah will be contributing, The state needs to be a major contributor as they are benefiting from the new tax base of the people and business’ relocating here and our most precious commodity our children when they become of age to contribute. The longer we wait to start this construction the more it’s going to cost and then you have the other down river states trying to take our water rights, the old saying either use it or loose it.

  • Scott April 2, 2018 at 4:14 pm

    Commissioners, I would argue that we are taking the path of least resistance by constructing the pipeline. I’m not against the pipeline based on cost– I oppose it for the fact that it will only encourage unmitigated growth into our area and destroy the quality of life in Washington County that is the best in the nation. People will want to live in St. George with the pipeline or without. The hard choice now is whether we want the crowds, traffic, and violence that come with 1/2 million residents.

  • Henry April 2, 2018 at 5:46 pm

    Unfortunately, for those of us who genuinely love and enjoy the town we grew up in, St. George has changed. All of the people moving here for a quality life find themselves stuck in traffic due to our lack of planning – and the commission wants to add more growth. The area doesn’t need the pipeline to add more people, traffic, pollution, crime and big-city problems. Growth for the sake of growth without considering quality of life got us to where we are today. Of course the commissioners want the pipeline; they’re funded by donations from – wait for it – developers.

  • Real Life April 2, 2018 at 7:26 pm

    $eem$ to me that there i$ an alternative motive in the con$truction of a pipeline.

  • Lefty April 2, 2018 at 8:45 pm

    Assuming that the Lake Powell Pipe is built, would you County Commissioners please tell us just what is the future plan for stopping the population growth in Washington County at a number that water resources in the Virgin River Basin and the LPP can honesty provide for indefinitely.

    Do you foresee any downside to the County’s economy when all growth is stopped? If growth is not stopped at a water-sustainable level, what water conservation measures would be in store for the people in this county? I’m sure that these are issues that you have carefully considered.

    There have been a number of questions raised in these comments about your rosy scenario for a post-pipeline future – I think that you owe us a response.

  • utahdiablo April 2, 2018 at 9:01 pm

    Oh, that State will fund the LPP via a bond that “We the residents of Washington County” have to pay back….with interest, so why the heck is there not a annual limit as to building permits? Like Boulder City Nevada has? Or impact fees for more Police and Fire fighters, you want to move here, you get to pay for it with a huge impact fee…Easy to do when “Greed” isn’t the driving factor as with the Washington County Commissioners have always been, and you cab also add the city Mayors to that list….Zion is lost

  • jaltair April 3, 2018 at 12:16 am

    The County of Washington and cities therein are all represented by politicians and it’s who you know along with big $$$$$$$

    There are ways to comtain sprawl, especially when water is a concern. As corrupt and misersble as California is, development along the coastal areas is limited by lack of water. You can’t get a permit to build in much of the coastal areas.

    In St George, I have seen more and more development of housing to meet needs of people. In all that development, little consideration is given for those who cannot afford upwards of $300,000 for a home. More people who work at service jobs usually have to rent or combine households to live here and work at service jobs.

    An impact study of humans needs versus the environment; i.e. water, lands animals, should objectively be carried out and reported to the current residents. As residents, we should be able to have a good discussion and consideration of all factors and then votes should be taken from the general population on if limits on building permits and what areas there should be limits on development.

    I don’t believe the people on councils serve the interest of their constituants, not from what I’ve read, they are all political at heart. We may need the pipeline for our area so we may have water, but at what cost. We could also conserve our resources including water. Artificial turf on golf courses? Such a waste to have courses like we have in a desert. People care very little about water or wildlife conservation in this atea.

  • zenzen April 3, 2018 at 6:37 am

    With such big hearts, you claim to be doing this for the children, yet all you are really doing is “borrowing” (ie. stealing) money from them because they are going to be the ones saddled with the debt. And easy for you to say you can’t flip off a growth switch, when you know deep down inside your children and grandchildren are going to be burdened with the problem of doing just exactly that someday when the county is so big, the wells are so dry, the Virgin is so parched, and the LPP is sucking air due to no water there too!

    You should be ashamed of yourselves for pretending like you are building the LPP for the children, when you know it’s all to enrich yourselves at the expense of the children!

  • Larry April 3, 2018 at 7:58 am

    We wish this was akin to buying swamp land (from) Arizona…But seeing that The Mighty Colorado does not even make it the the Pacific Ocean now (because it is over appropriated), We are probably just buying Sand Dunes. (Follow The Money)

  • John April 3, 2018 at 12:19 pm

    Don’t like it? You get to change your representatives at the ballot box ! As the saying goes” If you don’t like the weather, move !”

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