Water district releases contested pipeline documents, refutes label of ‘repayment plan’

Stock image courtesy of topten.ph, St. George News
Utah Division of Water Resources Nov. 30, 2015, Map of Lake Powell Pipeline proposed project | Map courtesy of UDWR, St. George News
Utah Division of Water Resources Nov. 30, 2015, Map of Lake Powell Pipeline proposed project | Map courtesy of UDWR, St. George News

ST. GEORGE – The Washington County Water Conservancy District has released a copy of a preliminary Lake Powell Pipeline financial survey as ordered by state officials.

The proposed pipeline would stretch nearly 140 miles and carry up to 86,000 acre-feet of water from Lake Powell to Washington and Kane counties, water which proponents say is needed to support future population growth in Southern Utah.

Opponents say the pipeline is not needed and would be prohibitively expensive.

Initial estimates have placed the final cost of the project at approximately $1 billion, but others believe the initial price tag would be closer to $2 billion plus the cost to manage and maintain the pipeline.

The Utah State Records Committee ruled May 13 that the district had to release documents related to a repayment plan for the controversial Lake Powell Pipeline.

Read more: Records Committee rules Lake Powell Pipeline repayment plan must be made public

The district could have appealed the decision, district spokeswoman Karry Rathje said in a press statement, but chose instead to release documents the district says are not repayment plans. The documents, she said, are actually the result of interactive live-polling focus group exercises.

“The information was generated using only the defined assumptions provided by those participating in the polling.” Rathje said in the statement. “The two resulting documents have different inputs and outcomes based on varied audience response, which is why the district decided to release copies of the results from both meetings.”

The documents and underlying calculations used in both meetings were prepared and presented by Applied Analysis, a Las Vegas-based corporation that is a consultant for the Water District.

The requested documents which the district released are not a repayment plan, Rathje said. The district maintains that a repayment plan cannot be formulated until 2018 or later because the needed information is not yet available.

A definitive repayment plan requires a route and design features that cannot be determined until after completion of a National Environmental Policy Act review along with an approved final design, cost estimates based on that design and financing terms approved by the state and accepted by the districts, Rathje said.

No official decision will be made to build the Lake Powell Pipeline until after multiple opportunities for public review and feedback on the costs, financing terms and repayment plan options,” the statement said.  

At issue is both the final cost to taxpayers and the impact on water rates for Washington County residents if the controversial pipeline is built. A study endorsed by 20 economists from three major Utah universities released in November predicts massive water rate and impact fee hikes would be needed to pay for the pipeline.

The released documents are believed to show a repayment plan for the billion-dollar project; the Utah Rivers Council requested the plan from the Water District in December. The request was denied, and that decision was appealed to the Utah Department of Administrative Services State Records Committee.

The district has stated that preliminary financing scenarios are not secret, and the Utah Rivers Council is “confusing a preliminary, interactive exercise with a repayment plan.”

Tom Butine, president of Conserve Southwest Utah, said in an earlier interview that he had seen the repayment model in a meeting and took extensive notes.

“So I knew the model existed,” Butine said. “They’re using that model to justify affordability, so it ought to be public.”

Representatives from Conserve Southwest Utah and the Utah Rivers Council declined to comment until the documents can be reviewed and analyzed.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.



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  • BIG GUY June 23, 2016 at 5:40 am

    The WCWCD is delaying and obfuscating for as long as possible so that the pipeline will seem inevitable when the district finally does come clean, regardless of the cost. Bet your bottom dollar that any projected cost will be far lower than the actual cost.

    Hold on to your wallets, southern Utah, and demand a popular vote. Instead, we’re likely to get the powers that be foisting the pipeline on us since they know better than we do what is good for us…or at least good for major landholders.

  • Common Sense June 23, 2016 at 6:54 am

    What do the opposed people propose? It is an undeniable fact we are growing and will need an additional water source at some point. How else are we going to keep the golf courses green?

    • BIG GUY June 23, 2016 at 9:10 am

      What do I propose? Set limits on growth by capping the number of water taps. Water conservation will allow for considerable growth beyond today’s population but there are limits: this is the desert. Let the voting public decide on the pipeline, not politicians behind closed doors.

      As for golf courses, golf courses (and most public schools and parks) in Southern Utah use secondary (e.g. reuse water from the sewage treatment plant’s output). Golf courses do not limit water available for residential and commercial purposes.

    • voice of reason June 23, 2016 at 10:20 am

      How about mandatory conservation. Reclaimed water for all outdoor irrigation at municipal buildings, golf courses and parks. A ban on water cooled equipment at grocery and retail stores. Require waterless urinals at all businesses. Put ordinances in place that prohibit the extravagant and out of place grass lawns that are everywhere in St George. Encourage the use of native plants and trees. For more tips, look south to our neighbors in Arizona, specifically the towns of Flagstaff and Payson. They have both experienced growth without increase water consumption. there are hundreds of things that could be done. The most important is to realize that you live in the desert.

  • beacon June 23, 2016 at 8:14 am

    Love the graphic that accompanies this article because that file full of money just about sums it up. Not only have we spent nearly $30 million on studies to date, but we will be spending much more before we even start spending the billions to build and maintain it. Yes, I say billions! This comment from the article does not say it all: “Initial estimates have placed the final cost of the project at approximately $1 billion, but others believe the initial price tag would be closer to $2 billion plus the cost to manage and maintain the pipeline.” The $1 billion or $2 billion figure does not include the financing costs, which as anyone who has bought a house knows, will increase those figures three or more times. The district says the documents they’ve provided to the Records Commission do not show a repayment plan because all the details are not known (even after $30 million!). But that negates the fact that during these 10 years of study the district and state could have easily been running “what if” scenarios for repayment for citizen consideration. But they have not and just provide excuses. Don’t buy their story, folks.

  • beacon June 23, 2016 at 8:25 am

    Common Sense, I hope your comment about keeping the golf courses green is tongue-in-cheek. Those who oppose the pipeline and have been fighting it for 10 years know there is sufficient water to support the growth that is coming to our county without indebting our citizens. If you really want to learn the facts you can contact Conserve Southwest Utah or even go to their 10-year anniversary event on Saturday from noon-3pm and ask your questions directly. I’m sure they’d love to discuss it with you because that’s what they’ve been doing for all these years, and people are wising up.

  • KarenS June 23, 2016 at 8:31 am

    According to a newspaper article, Ron Thompson (General manager of the Washington County Water Conservancy District) explained that the people of St. George come from a European background which is used to lush green lawns and flower beds. The people of Tucson (which use much, much less water) come from a south of the border background where desert landscapes are an accepted part of living. It seems to me that St. George, since it is located in a DESERT, should follow the Tucson model. Just an observation.

  • .... June 23, 2016 at 8:46 am

    Cry all you want ….. the pipeline is coming and nobody is going to stop it !

    • ladybugavenger June 24, 2016 at 10:15 am

      Since you are ok with price increases, Bill Dot for the pipeline LOL!

  • tcrider June 23, 2016 at 10:19 am

    How about just using the single excuse we cannot afford because of the single issue of Obamacare, I see the BS immigrant bill he was pushing just failed that if passed would of laid the burden of 4million people in the healthcare system and would of been placed on the middle class again, now we got some nimrod politicians trying to cram this bs pipeline down our throats that nobody wants except developers and politicians, how about taxing the developers more and making them pay for it, instead of the middle class again?

  • great success June 23, 2016 at 11:47 am

    Why go for the likely $2 Billion pipeline on an already stressed water source when other smaller interventions have not been tried? No doubt about it, this has Pork Barrell written all over it. Political/administrative shenanigans. And the tax payer will pay. Oh well, guess I’ll then be able to run my sprinklers all year, including in mid day scorching Mojave heat, every day, and during the night as well (because why not?). All while fashioning a sparkling moat around my house. Wait–I pretty much already can. Great Success.

    • Anejo June 25, 2016 at 4:27 pm

      So true GS!

      God forbid people actually thought about stewarding natural resources, then again the Mojave needs more lawns!

  • Bob June 23, 2016 at 1:51 pm

    i expect at the very last moment “the one true church” will step up and offer to pay for the whole deal. they can divert some of the $$$ they would be using for their next shopping mall project.

    • .... June 25, 2016 at 11:15 am

      it should be .. I expect not i expect. …will dumbob ever learn !

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