OPINION — Large water infrastructure projects like the Lake Powell Pipeline can be complex. Federal regulatory agencies evaluate the facts and review the project’s purpose and need, environmental impacts, socioeconomic impacts and affordability as part of the permitting process.
The Lake Powell Pipeline has been studied for more than two decades, during which time there have been ongoing opportunities for the public to review the completed study reports available online and provide comments. The Bureau of Reclamation, the lead permitting agency, recently held another public comment period and announced the next is scheduled for this summer when the draft Environmental Impact Statement will be available for review – that will be the 11th comment period for this project.
In addition to the reports and public comment periods, there have literally been hundreds of management committee meetings and board meetings hosted by the Utah Board of Water Resources and participating water districts in which they’ve provided information and project updates. The Lake Powell Pipeline is one of the state’s most studied and reviewed projects. We appreciate and respect this very public, open and transparent process.
We also appreciate all those who have participated in this process including our local legislators, county commissioners, mayors, city council members and community leaders. Most Utah elected officials are careful in the use of our financial resources and support building this needed water project.
The same can be said for most of our gubernatorial candidates, who studied the project before voicing their support at the recent Economic Summit in St. George. These individuals want what’s best for Utah – citing the need to develop and use Utah’s Colorado River water share, economic development and population growth as reasons for their support.
In planning to meet future water demand, we’ve looked at the options. We’ve considered the environmental and social impacts of extreme conservation, the costs of reverse osmosis and the economic consequences of having an inadequate water supply. These considerations have strengthened our collective resolve that the Lake Powell Pipeline is our best option for many reasons.
Most Washington County residents are dependent on a single water source of variable quality and quantity – the Virgin River basin. The Lake Powell Pipeline is the only project that introduces a second, more dependable water source.
The Lake Powell Pipeline is the only option that allows Washington County to access a reliable water source — the Colorado River. Each of the seven Colorado River states has the right to develop and use its water. The water for the Lake Powell Pipeline is Utah’s, by law under the 1922 Colorado River Compact. Claims that the Lake Powell Pipeline is taking water entitled to another state is false.
The Lake Powell Pipeline is the best way to improve the reliability of Washington County’s water supply, introducing a high-quality water source that will be safe to use in our homes and businesses. According to state projections, Washington County’s population is projected to triple in the next 40 years. We will need water.
The Lake Powell Pipeline is as essential to Washington County’s future as water conservation, additional wastewater reuse, maximizing local supplies and, when available, transferring agricultural water rights to municipal use.
Submitted by ZACHARY RENSTROM, general manager of the Washington County Water Conservancy District and former Washington County Commissioner. Renstrom is an attorney and licensed civil engineer.
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