The Lake Powell Pipeline Paper Chase

lake powell
Lake Powell. | stock.xchng photo

Editor’s Note: Dallas Hyland will be authoring a new weekly opinion column for St. George News. We are excited to have this new addition to our publication. The thoughts expressed are his and not necessarily the opinions of St. George News or Canyon Media.

Does anyone remember the Arsenio Hall Show?  More to the point, does anyone remember the bit he used to do called, Things that Make you go Hmmm?

Arsenio would belabor some seemingly obvious contradiction and hold his elbow in his opposite hand, while tapping his upper lip just under the nose, and say,”hmmm.”

In what aspires to become an informative and speculative column, I think the theme our old late show host presented is apropos. The idea here is not to cast accusations or even necessarily draw broad conclusions in an attempt to sway opinion. Rather, it is to make acute observations of things and ideas being presented in light of facts that either support or contradict themselves. The goal is to inspire the reader, you, to do some thinking and perhaps ask some questions on your own.

Has anyone heard of the Lake Powell Pipeline? And if so, how much do you actually know about this project with regard to how it will benefit you, the community as a whole, and anyone else involved? Do you know how much it will cost in real dollars and more importantly how much of that cost will be assigned to you?

These are just some of the questions that have been categorically addressed by proponents of the LPP; but what of the ones not being discussed? This is not to say that these issues are necessarily hidden but they do involve some intense research to find. And they are potentially huge in both reflected costs and benefits as well as huge on the impact they have on the community and the environment.

The LPP project is being presented to the citizens of the southern counties of Utah as a necessity for the impending growth projected by the Governor’s Office of Budget and Management.  It is fair to say, given the position of the head of the Washington County Water Conservancy District, Ron Thompson, as recently printed in a weekly publication produced by The Spectrum, that what is also impending is some rather draconian consequences should this project not see itself to fruition soon.

Ok, it sounds like the best interest of citizens is at the forefront here, right?

I have a question:  What benefit would a paper mill here in Washington County have to the community in regard to water needs?

The LPP Study’s Water Needs Assessment has in it a proposal for such a venture, as well as some other things that might at the least raise a question as to their relevance to water interests and needs of the community at large.

The Lake Powell Pipeline Study, Water Needs and Assessment pg. 3-26  states:

“New commercial and industrial water users that are reasonably foreseeable for the WCWCD service area were identified. An example of the projected demands is the Sunrock Pintura Mine and a paper mill that have been proposed for construction in Washington County. Specific water needs for these and other reasonably foreseeable industrial demands have not been developed because the demands were assumed to be included in the projected M&I demands indirectly through the 1.9 to 5.6 percent annual projected growth rate assumed for WCWCD based on GOPB planning projections.”

Citizens for Dixie’s Future recently held a symposium at which members of the community from both predominant sides of the political spectrum were engaged in a conversation to gain a better understanding of one another and perhaps find some common ground. The subject of the LPP being one of the predominant contentions of late, I took the opportunity to ask Scott Hirschi, Director of Economic Development for Washington County, his thoughts on the proposed paper mill. He informed those in attendance that it would not be using fresh water but reclaimed water for its function, indicating that a paper mill is, in fact, imminent.

From what is presented in the LPP Study, and Hirschi’s statement alluding to its existence albeit not using fresh water, it would appear that a paper mill being established here in Washington County might be imminent. And, if it has nothing to do with the fresh water being brought in by the pipeline, why is it mentioned in this report? Is it mentioned anywhere else? What effect will it have on our sore need for water?

Paper mills are highly water-intensive and produce enormous levels of toxic waste. Where will this waste be disposed of?  Please say that the rivers are not the answer to that question.

According to the U.S. Toxic Release Inventory report published by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, pulp and paper mills are among the worst polluters of air, water and land of any industry in the country.

Also, where will the pulp come from?  The trees used to make paper in the United States come mostly from soft wood forests – mostly pine – in the south and west.  Who will get the contracts for the transport of both materials in and out of this proposed plant? How much will this proposed plant contribute to the pipeline costs in lieu of what it will do to benefit the community?  And, most importantly, what will be the long-term effects of this paper mill should it come to pass?

What does a paper mill have to do with our water needs in relation to our projected growth?

Is anyone saying “hmmm” yet?

I have questions.  So should you.

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1 Comment

  • Matt Mortenson August 10, 2011 at 9:23 am

    This is an interesting story. While a paper mill would supply much needed jobs to the area, I don’t think I want a job source that would spoil what we have hear possibly ruin our rivers and streams.

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