Communities in the Southwestern part of the state want to develop Utah’s unused share of Colorado River water. A federal agency is now putting pressure on the state’s water office to hand in its application for that development.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is giving Utah two more years to put together a workable plan for the 139-mile Lake Powell Pipeline. The state’s already had six years to complete its application, and the agency hinted last month it might not extend the deadline again.
“Yes. It is doable,” says Bill Leeflang, who leads the pipeline project for the Utah Division of Water Resources.
“And we’re doing the best we can to facilitate the process through coordination with the agencies and entities involved to meet this deadline.”
The Lake Powell Pipeline could deliver more water to St. George and other southwestern Utah communities. Leeflang points to fast-growing Washington and Kane counties.
“It’s really critical for the growth in the southwest part of the state,” he says. “Particularly now after the economy has picked up again, there will be need for Lake Powell water in 2025.”
The state has been polishing nearly two-dozen studies as part of its FERC application. But neither the environmental nor the economic reports are done. And no one’s able to say yet how the to cover the pipeline’s cost, which is estimated to be between $1 billion and $2 billion.
The Utah Rivers Council wants the pipeline idea scrapped.
“It will mean more taxpayers money spent pushing for a project we don’t need and that taxpayers in the area can’t hope to repay,” says Nick Schou, the group’s conservation director.
He says there’s already plenty of water to meet the needs of southwestern Utah. And the state could save the money that it will cost to build the pipeline by promoting conservation and shifting water from farms and ranches to homes and businesses.