Despite question of jurisdiction, Utah asks federal agency to resume Lake Powell Pipeline permitting process

Stock image | St. George News

ST. GEORGE – State and local water officials are asking federal regulators to resume the permitting process for the Lake Powell Pipeline despite a lingering question of jurisdiction over the project.

The Utah Board of Water Resources and Washington County Water Conservancy District sent a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission asking the agency to again move forward on initiating an environmental study to determine the project’s feasibility. FERC had been ready to move on the study and associated licensing in December.

Lake Powell, near Page, Ariz., photo undated, St. George News

Read more: Federal agency OKs study, public comment on proposed Lake Powell Pipeline

However, when FERC officials noted in the paperwork that their agency may not have jurisdiction over the project overall, Utah water officials asked for the process to be put on hold until the issue could be resolved quickly.

So far the question of jurisdiction has remained unanswered.

In their letter to FERC Wednesday, Utah water officials said they do not wish to delay the project any further.

“Because it is extremely important that the licensing of this critical infrastructure project for the State of Utah move forward expeditiously, UBWR and WCWCD desire to now have the procedural schedule reinstated.”

The proposed 140-mile long, 70-inch diameter pipeline is designed to take water from Lake Powell to Sand Hollow reservoir in Washington County. The pipeline is anticipated to bring 77 million gallons of water daily to 13 communities in Washington and Kane counties.

A proposed route for the Lake Powell Pipeline | Image courtesy Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, St. George News

According to FERC, the pipeline will carry water 50 miles uphill from Lake Powell to a high point in the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, with the remaining 90 miles running through a series of hydroelectric turbines on the way to Sand Hollow.

Utah officials applied to FERC for project approval since hydroelectric facilities are involved. While the agency approved the permitting process, federal officials were not certain if the agency had jurisdiction over the pipeline that would deliver water to those facilities.

“While the Commission has jurisdiction over the electric generating equipment and Project transmission lines, ‘the Commission has not yet determined whether [the] water delivery pipelines will be included as part of the licensed hydro facilities,’” the letter to federal regulators stated.

Communities in Washington County get their water from a single source: the Virgin River. State and county water planners have said for years that the county needs to diversify its water resources, especially in light of expected growth in population.

The Lake Powell Pipeline project was the subject of an open house held at the Washington County Water Conservancy District, St. George, Utah, Jan. 13, 2016 | File photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

Washington County is projected to have a population of over 400,000 by 2060. The Washington County Water Conservancy District has said the development of current water resources and conservation will only be able to make up a little over half of the water supply needed to sustain a population of that size. The Lake Powell Pipeline, water district officials say, will be able to supply the rest.

Opponents of the pipeline claim it isn’t needed, will cost too much and will take water away from what they say is an already over-allocated Colorado River system.

Read more: Letter to the Editor: Aren’t we just a bunch of bullying bullfrogs gambling our way to the Lake Powell Pipeline

While no solid price tag has been attached to the Lake Powell Pipeline yet, state and county water officials place the potential cost at around $1.3 billion. Opponents claim it’s closer to $3 billion.

Conservationists groups that oppose the pipeline’s construction include the Utah Rivers Council, Conserve Southwest Utah and Save the Colorado.

“When FERC re-starts the permitting process, we will continue to lock arms with environmental colleagues across the American West to fight this river-destroying, unnecessary project,” said Gary Wockner of Save the Colorado. “At this point in history, proposing to take even more water out of the Colorado River is simply insane.”

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @MoriKessler

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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  • tcrider August 24, 2018 at 9:45 am

    A pipeline, that will be supplying water for a water park that
    can be advertised from I-15 and the development of a new
    community with lakes and lagoons, that will enrich a very few St George Developers,
    This whole pipe-dream is about developer greed that will enrich
    a very few and what about climate change in the mean time?
    Do you really think they don’t take climate change in to account
    at a federal level? This article about the pipeline is like climate change denial on steroids.

  • comments August 24, 2018 at 12:56 pm

    Trump seems to be ok with rubber stamping whatever the utah greed crew has in store for us, so…

  • PogoStik August 24, 2018 at 4:37 pm

    I think it is ironic that all the photos in this article show just how low the water in Lake Powell currently is. Promoters of the LPP seem to ignore whether or not there will be sufficient water remaining in Lake Powell, after the expensive pipeline has been built. Arizona has its eye on the same water source as Utah. Come push to shove, Arizona will exercise more legal clout than southern Utah can afford. Phoenix, Tucson, and the rest of Arizona will fight hard for their water survival.

  • Red2Blue310 August 24, 2018 at 8:17 pm

    Sounds like Hatch is finally in a position to really line his pockets. As if he really needs it…

  • Jeannette August 25, 2018 at 12:19 am

    It’s ridiculous to bring water across disputed territory so St George can double in size with green grass growth, pools of water. This is the desert and we are and have been in a drought. The Colorado River can’t sustain Southern Utah, parts of NM, AZ, TX, and portions of CA. Conditions of drought are expected to continue and the Rivers are all lower than they should be.

    In addition, the cost isn’t justified.

    Another factor is the bullying of affected parties and negative news that will be encountered.

    I say NO to the pipeline. The whole move to put it through is insane. I’m so disappointed in those who represent our area!

    • PogoStik August 25, 2018 at 8:24 am

      Follow the money…

    • mesaman August 25, 2018 at 6:10 pm

      This is really the important point, Jeannette. While it’s easy to resort to assuming all kinds of different scenarios, the bottom line is this; 1) do we want the growth that has been alleged to happen with the LPPO, 2) do we need the water from that far distant source, 3) why wasn’t Lake Mead given as a source and 4) do the citizens of Southern Utah towns and cities impacted by the cost of the pipeline need to be given an opportunity to vote on this? Like you I would say NO to the pipeline.

      • An actual Independent August 28, 2018 at 6:45 pm

        I’m NOT a proponent of the pipeline, just responding to a question about why they aren’t proposing Lake Mead. Once the water leaves Utah and goes downstream, we can’t bring it back bring it back from a downstream state. We couldn’t even pump it from the south end of Lake Powell in AZ.

  • tazzman August 25, 2018 at 1:34 pm

    This sounds like another massive boondoggle. Plus they are going to route the pipeline and push the water uphill for a large part of the route. And nothing is guaranteed as far as water. NV and CA are already starving for it and are way ahead of UT in buying acre feet of water for their own states.

    And the people pushing this keep saying the population growth is inevitable. Yes, it will be if you keep approving massive developments that will turn us into a poor man’s Phoenix or Vegas.

    This city and county already can’t handle traffic with the growth we have now. Imagine the traffic with what they want. The quality of life wont just diminish but will disappear.

    NO to the pipeline.

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