Letter to the Editor: Few Lake Powell Pipeline environmental impacts force some to focus on faulty cost arguments

Stock image, St. George News

OPINION — The Lake Powell Pipeline Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) recently published by the Bureau of Reclamation has prompted a considerable amount of misinformation from environmental organizations who oppose the project because of its cost.

Drawing of Lake Powell pipeline construction process | Image courtesy Utah Division of Water Resources, St. George News | Click image to enlarge for clarity

Historically, environmental groups have advocated and worked toward protecting the natural environment from destruction or pollution. We can all agree that protecting the environment against harmful effects of human activity is critically important for infrastructure projects. In addition, collaboration between all interested parties in the LPP project is equally important to achieve the best results for all Utahns.

But what’s missing in the public statements from Salt Lake City- or Colorado-based environmental groups is any mention of serious long-term environmental impacts from the construction and operation of the LPP. Instead, commentators have criticized the water delivery project by inflating the estimated construction costs and the legislative-approved revenue sources for project repayment.

Perhaps the lack of environmental claims is due to the fact that extensive environmental studies have been conducted for the LPP DEIS to evaluate impacts from the project’s construction, operation and maintenance. The studies have found that the LPP will have very few permanent environmental impacts.

For example, Reclamation has considered but eliminated general fish and wildlife resources from further study given the negligible long-term effects from constructing the LPP, and considering the benefits from implementing the environmental protection measures and mitigation measures.

In addition, much of the 140-mile route follows existing roads, alignments or designated utility corridors to minimize disturbances to natural, cultural, historic and archeological resources. Construction of the LPP will not permanently affect the few existing trails or roads that the project will cross, and the pipeline will be completely buried and will not pose an impediment to sensitive species. Finally, the LPP would permanently affect less than 0.1 acres of waters of the United States and not impact wetlands.

I urge all of those truly interested in the environmental effects of the LPP to review the DEIS. Likewise, please visit the LPP website for the facts on the economic cost-benefit assessment of this crucial water infrastructure project for Utah, which cost critics fail to mention. The DEIS and a 2019 state legislative audit confirm the project is economically feasible and affordable. The LPP is an affordable solution to meeting our future water needs and its benefits far outweigh its costs.

Submitted by BRYAN THIRIOT, St. George.

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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