Bureau of Reclamation seeks public comment on Lake Powell Pipeline as scoping period starts

ST. GEORGE — Earlier this month the Bureau of Reclamation announced it was seeking public comment in order to gauge the environmental and human impacts of the proposed Lake Powell Pipeline project.

Lake Powell
Lake Powell in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, date not specified | Photo courtesy of the National Park Service, St. George News

The request for public comment comes following the Bureau issuing a notice of intent to prepare an environmental impact study for the pipeline project. The public has until Jan. 10 to submit comments and will also have the opportunity to attend scoping meetings between Jan. 7-9.

The last time the public was able to offer comments on the project at this stage was over a decade ago, said Rick Baxter, a project manager for the Bureau of Reclamation.

“We felt it gave people a fair chance to comment since the last time was over 10 years ago,” he said.

While the environmental impact statement process is starting anew under the Bureau of Reclamation, which recently took over management of the project, it will also be building upon data and reports previously gathered by other agencies.

Lake Powell, Utah/Arizona, date unspecified | Photo by Brigitte Werner from Pixabay, St. George News

“There’s no need to create studies that have already been done,” Baxter said.

Still, as outlined by the National Environmental Policy Act, the Bureau is seeking public comment as a means to help better consider both the environmental and potential human impacts of the project if built.

“The public scoping process is an important step in informing interested parties of the proposed action and gathering their issues and concerns,” Wayne Pullan, Reclamation’s Provo area office manager, said in a press release. “Their input will help (the U.S. Department of the) Interior define the scope of the EIS and identify significant issues to be analyzed in depth.”

This will include anything from potential impacts on endangered species, existing habitat and viewsheds to socioeconomic and cultural impacts.

“The study runs the gamut of possible impacts,” Baxter said.

The Lake Powell Pipeline is a proposed 140-mile, 70-inch diameter pipeline that will run from Lake Powell to the Sand Hollow Reservoir. It is anticipated to carry around 77 million gallons a day to 13 communities in Kane and Washington counties.

A storm over Sand Hollow that caused several boats and swimmers to be stranded, Sand Hollow State Park, Utah, July 13, 2019 | Photo courtesy of Brodie Rose, St. George News

Local and state water officials say the pipeline is needed to support the continuing growth and economy of the region. It also adds a second water source to Washington County communities. Currently, the county’s primary source of water is the Virgin River Basin.

Originally, the federal agency providing oversight for the Lake Powell Pipeline was the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission due to the project having some hydropower generation elements. Utah water officials dropped that portion of the plan earlier this year, which resulted in the withdrawal of its application to FERC. This subsequently led to the Bureau of Reclamation becoming the lead federal agency.

According to the Bureau’s Notice of Intent to begin the scoping process released last Friday, the Bureau will be examining two proposed routes for the pipeline.

As described in the notice, the two routes are known as the Southern Alternative and Highway Alternative:

The Southern Alternative would travel south of the Kaibab Indian Reservation while the alignment for the Highway Alternative would cross lands held in trust by the United States for the benefit of the Kaibab Band of Paiute Indians, following Arizona state Route 389. The Southern Alternative would cross land administered by the BLM in Utah and Arizona and would require multiple right-of-way (ROW) grants and an amendment to the Arizona Strip Resource Management Plan (RMP), because a small portion of the pipeline would go outside an approved utility corridor.

The Highway Alternative would cross BLM and tribal trust lands, which would require the BLM and BIA to issue ROW grants and require a tribal resolution from the Kaibab Band of Paiute Indians. Both alternatives would cross lands administered by Reclamation and the NPS, requiring Reclamation to issue a license agreement and the NPS to issue a ROW permit under either alternative.

While the Southern Alternative route is considered preferred by local water managers, Baxter said the Bureau has made no such distinction and will not until the environmental impact statement has run its course.

The bureau is also considering a request by the Utah Division of Water Resources to exchange the state’s ability to divert some the state-allotted water from the Green River above the Flaming Gorge Dam to Lake Powell.

The Bureau asks that comments be substantive and filled with details regarding concerns surrounding the project. Simply stating one’s support or opposition for the project without going into details doesn’t help the review process, Baxter said.

The public has between until Jan. 10, 2020, to submit comments to the Lake Power Pipeline Environmental Impact Statement website, through email at lpp@usbr.gov, sent through a fax to 801-379-1159 or sent through the mail to:

Bureau of Reclamation

Provo Area Office

302 E. Lakeview Parkway

Provo, Utah 84606.

In addition to the Bureau of Reclamation, other federal agencies involved in the development of the draft environmental impact statement will include the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Park Service.

Three scoping meetings will be held Jan. 7-9 at the following locations:

  • Jan. 7, 2020—Kanab Center, 20 N. 100 East, Kanab.
  • Jan. 8, 2020—Dixie Center, 1835 S. Convention Center Drive, St. George.
  • Jan. 9, 2020—Valley High, 325 W. 11000 South, South Jordan.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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