OPINION — Most people won’t read the massive Lake Powell Pipeline draft Environmental Impact Statement during this public comment period that ends on Sept. 8. If they did, they would see that the pipeline project — either the Highway Alignment Alternative or the Southern Alignment Alternative — would have quite an impact on the construction area’s roads and recreational activities at some level for six years.
The DEIS makes it clear that construction activities would increase traffic, increasing the “average annual daily traffic” by an additional 14 to 212 vehicles on any given highway segment per day. That’s quite a spread, right?
Glen Canyon National Recreation Area (Lake Powell), Grand Canyon and Zion would be affected due to construction traffic during the spring, summer and fall months when higher tourism occurs and during hunting season in the fall.
The DEIS states: “Effects experienced by roadway users as a result of the increased number of vehicles from construction activities in these locations may be perceived as higher during these times.”
May be “perceived?” How about it would be a “reality?”
According to the DEIS construction would span six years. The first three years would be focused on construction of the Intake System at Lake Powell to BPS-3 (Booster Pump Station), BPS-3 to BPS-4, and transmission lines. Years four through six would focus again on the Intake System at Lake Powell and all remaining aspects of the LPP, a massively expensive 140-mile project. All of this work would put a lot of vehicles on state Route 89 — an already heavily-traveled road. Add to that the fact that UDOT has plans for construction work on SR-89 meaning more delays for that, too, and you have a recipe for a terrible driving experience.
This is an unnecessary and unwarranted level of activity on these small roads for a project that is not necessary. The addition of “14 to 212” vehicles on any day on any given highway segment is a huge range of vehicles for these areas to deal with. Our state, Kane County and Washington County are driven by tourism. To add additional burden on an already busy SR-89 during a time when tourists are visiting is not only an inconvenience; it’s a safety hazard. People who may be frustrated by delays that slow their progress may be inclined to speed when they have the opportunity and pass carelessly in bad areas. Traffic management plans would be in place at areas where construction would occur, but those controls would not keep people from making bad decisions. We have witnessed in other construction areas how drivers can ignore safety and injure workers and others.
We do not need to expose people to accident, injury and possibly death for water we do not need. The “No Action Alternative” and the “Local Waters Alternative to the LPP” — water conservation alternatives — would avoid impacts to traffic since no construction would occur. They would allow Washington County to meet future water needs in a more reasonable and cheaper fashion providing benefit to our county and our entire state while not undermining the vital transportation infrastructure that supports rural communities and recreation access that helps support those communities.
The “No Action” and “Local Waters” alternatives would serve these areas better and protect citizens and visitors from injury.
As for recreation impacts to campgrounds, recreation sites and high-use areas located within 0.5 miles of the LPP, the construction schedule would be posted and construction would occur during daytime hours using equipment with noise control devices to avoid disturbance to campers. What a relief, right? Have you ever been around a construction job where noise is “controlled?” Pipeline facilities that may be near human activity will be built to minimize noise, or at least, that’s what they say.
Tourists and our citizens visit our spectacular recreation areas for their beauty, solitude (in some cases), and dark sky enjoyment. The DEIS says that nighttime lighting on LPP facilities and BLM or National Park Service-managed land “would be compliant with International Dark Sky Association guidelines” but it remains to be seen how well that would be done. Recreation would be impacted due to “visual changes, air pollutants, noise and traffic effects that could include temporary closures, detours, congestion on roads and at recreation sites.”
Even after construction is finished, “Operation of the LPP would affect recreational resources due to noise and visual effects, as well as permanent closures of some small portions of recreation areas.”
In contrast, the DEIS notes that “The No Action Alternative would have no effect on recreation resources within the study area. The No Action Alternative would not have any construction or operation effects on recreation resources within the LPP study area as no construction or operational activities would occur.”
The industrialization of areas that people use to recreate and explore and in which they try to refresh themselves flies in the face of what Utah is all about. Utah has spent millions encouraging people to come here for these purposes and now is working to undermine this effort by building a project that will add inconvenience, noise and pollution to the experience, no matter how minimal project proponents make that seem, while also taking away from the visual experience.
Constructing the LPP would be a major six-year inconvenience for water we don’t even need and water which may very likely not be available in the future due to effects of climate change and diminished flows in the over-allocated Colorado River. In 2026, the seven basin states will gather again to review the situation and see what the future holds. Rushing to build a pipeline is not the answer to our future.
Go to www.conserveswu.org to learn how to comment during this public comment period that ends on Sept. 6.
Submitted by LISA RUTHERFORD, Ivins.
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