Utah’s proposed Lake Powell pipeline had been on a fast track for approval, but on Thursday state water officials asked the Interior Department to slow down the controversial billion-dollar project’s review.
For more than 20 years, negotiations among the seven states that rely on the Colorado River have avoided lawsuits, even as drought and population growth threaten the river’s flows.
That may change as a promise to rush the environmental review of a diversion project between the Colorado River’s upper and lower basins has six states suggesting lawsuits challenging the project could topple years of agreements.
Arizona and five other Colorado River Basin states are challenging a proposed pipeline that would divert to a booming Utah community almost as much river water as Tucson uses every year. Six of the seven river basin states — all but Utah — wrote to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation on Tuesday, seeking a delay in publishing a final environmental review, and in making a final decision, on the Lake Powell pipeline.
Nevada officials raised numerous concerns Tuesday about permitting a proposed project to pipe large quantities of Colorado River water roughly 140 miles from Lake Powell to southern Utah, a controversial plan that would place new demands on the river.
A group of residents in a southern Nevada town that sits along the Colorado River are organizing a campaign to oppose a proposed pipeline that would divert billions of gallons of river water to southwest Utah, reflecting intensifying struggles over water in the U.S. West.
If constructed, the proposed 140-mile Lake Powell Pipeline would be a multi-billion dollar project, one of the most expensive in state history.
Although the pipeline would only serve Washington County, its proponents want the entire state to subsidize the LPP. As taxpayers who’d be required to pay for this mammoth project, we deserve accurate information and well-reasoned analysis that demonstrates the need and economic viability of the pipeline. Instead, studies by the Division of Water Resources (DWR) and the Washington County Water Conservancy District (WCWCD) are biased, incomplete and don’t fairly consider feasible, much less costly alternatives.
In politics, what goes around can and sometimes should come around. A case in point is the Desert National Wildlife Refuge and Lake Powell Pipeline.
Utah’s infamous Rep. Rob Bishop, known for his abysmally bad voting record on public lands and environmental issues, recently pulled off a “sneak attack” on Nevada in the House Armed Services Committee. On July 1st, reportedly without consulting with any Nevada officials, he put forward an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act legislation to give the Air Force primary control over approximately 850,000 acres of the DNWR.
A proposed pipeline in Utah could divert approximately 86,000 acre feet of water annually from Lake Mead, but it will most likely not harm the overall water level in the reservoir.
People generally think of the Lake Powell Pipeline as a southern Utah project, which it is. But we should not forget that the project, first conceived in 1995 and mandated by the 2006 Lake Powell Pipeline Development Act, would burden all Utahns.
Utah would bond for 50 years or more and Washington County would repay, only slowly, tying up much needed state funds at a time when the our ability to balance the budget will be challenging.