Letter to the Editor: Energy Commission shouldn’t handle Lake Powell Pipeline environmental impact statement

Lake Powell, Utah, date not specified | Stock image, St. George News

OPINION — The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission – or FERC – should withdraw as the National Environmental Policy Act lead agency for preparing the Lake Powell Pipeline draft environmental impact statement.

FERC properly determined in its Sept. 20, 2018, decision denying Utah’s petition that FERC’s legal jurisdiction is strictly limited to discrete hydroelectric facilities that might be included in the final pipeline design.

Read  more: Federal agency rules it will not have sole oversight over Lake Powell Pipeline permitting

The Lake Powell Pipeline is a proposed water delivery project. Even if hydroelectric generation occurs, this project would still be a net energy consumer. The hydro would only partially offset the energy needed to pump the water over several high ridges. Hydro is an ancillary part of the overall project which part may be discarded if found to not be economically feasible. Therefore, FERC’s jurisdiction is likewise ancillary to the fundamental water delivery purpose and may become moot if the hydro part is abandoned.

The Bureau of Land Management and Bureau of Reclamation each have much greater relevant jurisdictional authority and institutional expertise. Most of the pipeline’s proposed alternative alignments cross BLM administered lands. Most of the large water projects in the West have used the Bureau of Reclamation’s expertise and involvement during National Environmental Policy Act compliance. Pursuant to the criteria in 40 CFR 1501.5, it is clear that BLM and/or BOR are much more qualified and appropriate to be the lead agency for the pipeline NEPA process.

As a 20-year resident in Washington County, Utah, I oppose the Lake Powell Pipeline, and I know that there are much cheaper and more reliable alternatives. However, most Utah officials are so beholden to developers, land speculators and construction-related businesses that they continue to work in lock-step pushing the pipeline.

These officials purport to be fiscal conservatives who believe in free market economics. But they are obvious hypocrites because they are willing to risk billions of taxpayers’ dollars on the Lake Powell Pipeline boondoggle while improperly subsidizing water districts with property taxes and refusing to establish tiered water pricing to encourage conservation.

The Colorado River is already over-allocated. Massive existing infrastructure and large human populations are already threatened by the potential for drought-related reductions in water deliveries, and there is already increasing demand for this water while the supply keeps decreasing.

Appropriative water law in the West gives preference, and senior water rights, to those entities that divert water earlier in time and put it to a beneficial use. Utah has come too late to this party with its arguable junior water rights. Those rights may look good on paper but they are increasingly likely not to exist most of the time in the real world.

It is doubtful that the gigantic populations and economic interests in Nevada, Arizona and California will remain silent when Utah pursues its dubious junior water right at their expense and when that proposed water diversion is intended for human growth that has not yet occurred and where existing water consumption is needlessly wasteful.

Even as Utah officials refuse to face reality, FERC should recognize the writing on the wall and extricate itself as the Lake Powell Pipeline National Environmental Policy Act lead agency. FERC should have much higher priorities for use of its limited staff and for work that is truly centered on FERC’s statutory jurisdiction and institutional expertise.

Submitted by CAROLYN BORG, St. George, Utah.

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 and are given only light edit for technical style and formatting.

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  • KR567 November 23, 2018 at 5:14 pm

    dont worry about it. by the time they figure out what to do there wont be any water left lol !

  • Walter1 November 23, 2018 at 7:51 pm

    Dixie does not need this expensive and foolish pipeline! We need another reservoir to be built much like Sand Hollow to store water collected from the Virgin River during high water events. Problem solved!

    • Red2Blue310 November 24, 2018 at 8:32 am

      Yes! And build it by your house in St George.

  • friedmoderate November 23, 2018 at 8:26 pm

    Really good stuff. Lots of great points that I hadn’t considered. Thank you for writing, and for publishing.

  • michael bodell November 24, 2018 at 7:00 am

    As much as I oppose this pipeline I have no doubt that our intrepid Republican/Mormon development syndicate rulers and legislators have probably rendered the discussion moot as has been well planned in advance behind closed doors, as are all momentous decisions involving the future of this state. Have you looked around and seen the massive influx of new people into our area? Have you driven the area and seen the big expensive homes being built everywhere you look in Washington County?

    I’m sorry. The Lake Powell Pipeline is a fait accompli. The ruling development class is making sure that so many people live in Washington County that there will be no other option BUT to build the pipeline and ensuring that the entire state gets to help pay for it. This project IS going forward regardless if there is any water left to be pumped in the future. The thinking has already been done for us in that great Utah tradition.

  • commonsense November 24, 2018 at 11:36 am

    So Ms Borg, you want water from a reservoir mostly in Utah to quench the thirst of urban California which continues to elect fiscally irresponsible politicians who allow illegals to pour across its border and consume resources for which they don’t pay?

  • utahdiablo November 25, 2018 at 11:40 am

    If Nevada, Arizona and California want to use any water from the proposed Lake Powell Pipeline?….Let them all pay for the Pipeline.

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