Letters to the Editor: Residents outline support for and opposition to Lake Powell Pipeline

Stock image, St. George News

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR — Following are three letters to the editor from Southern Utah residents discussing the proposed Lake Powell Pipeline project.

Letter No. 1: Santa Clara public servant sees Lake Powell Pipeline as guarantee of future water

I am a life-long resident of Washington County and now have grandchildren growing up here as well. I support the Lake Powell Pipeline not only for their futures but also for those residents who currently call Santa Clara home, raising their families and running their businesses, just as I have done.

During my tenures on the Santa Clara planning board, as Mayor of Santa Clara, as a Washington County Commissioner, and now serving as a Santa Clara City Council member, I have become familiar with and understand the issues facing current and future residents of our region. We strive to balance development and growth with conservation and proactive planning, making sure we have the needed resources. Having a reliable and diverse water supply is essential to our future. There isn’t a substitute for water.

Washington County represents one of the fastest growing communities in the nation. Wise planning requires we establish future infrastructure and resources to support our growing number of citizens.

Then-County Commissioner Dennis Drake speaks in Hurricane, Utah, Dec. 5, 2013. Drake is the author of a letter to the editor submitted to St. George News. | File photo by Reuben Wadsworth, St. George News

I look to the Lake Powell Pipeline as a guarantee of water supply, not just for the immediate future, but well into the future. With a reliable water supply in place, those moving to the area can do so with confidence, building their homes and businesses knowing they will be able to stay and participate in the same vibrant community they helped create.

I support the Lake Powell Pipeline Southern Alternative studied in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement as the best option for making water supply a central feature of planning for our population growth, securing a quality of life for our future generations, and protecting the natural beauty of the home we love and cherish.

Submitted by DENNIS “Denny” DRAKE, Santa Clara City Council member.

Letter No. 2: Lake Powell Pipeline environmental impact statement is biased and inadequate under NEPA

The Bureau of Reclamation’s recently released Draft Environmental Impact Statement on the proposed Lake Powell Pipeline is clearly biased and fundamentally inadequate under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). As a Utah taxpayer with extensive professional NEPA experience, including as a former environmental attorney and NEPA specialist for the National Park Service and Bureau of Land Management, I am frankly appalled and profoundly disappointed with this Draft Environmental Impact Statement.

Most egregiously, the Bureau of Reclamation arbitrarily refused to carry forward and analyze one or more alternatives in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement relating to instituting a combination of already proven successful water conservation, efficiency and reclamation practices. I and many other Utahns who submitted previous scoping comments requested that such conservation alternatives be analyzed in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement. This analysis would provide an objective comparison of the relative costs, benefits, risks and impacts with the LPP. Bureau of Reclamation ignored these requests and only provided the required no action (status quo) and two LPP construction alternatives. Bureau of Reclamation’s myopic “LPP or nothing” approach violates NEPA requirements and is a slap in the face to those who provided scoping comments in good faith.

NEPA regulations (40 CFR Section 1502.14) say that the alternatives analysis is the “heart” of a Draft Environmental Impact Statement, and that federal agencies like Bureau of Reclamation shall “Rigorously explore and objectively evaluate all reasonable alternatives.” These regulations also require that a Draft Environmental Impact Statement “Include reasonable alternatives not within the jurisdiction of the lead agency.”

NEPA experts know that the “purpose and need statement” can be pivotal in terms of which alternatives should be properly carried forward for Draft Environmental Impact Statement analysis. If this statement is too narrowly written, it can be used to prevent analysis of otherwise reasonable alternatives. In this case, Bureau of Reclamation demonstrates its impermissible bias by basically taking the LPP proponents’ self-serving purpose and need and making it their own. Indeed, in the “Dear Reader” letter introducing the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, Bureau of Reclamation says that “A second, reliable water supply is needed to meet existing and future water demand.” This sentence sets the stage for the balance of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement because it improperly narrows the range of alternatives to an LPP or no action. It rests on the dubious assumption that — despite prolonged drought, declining supplies and increasing demands — the Colorado River would provide a “reliable water supply.” And it says that the LPP is needed to meet “existing” water demand, which is patently false.

On the reliability of Colorado River water, many scoping comments asked how Utah’s request for this new LPP diversion would comply with the multi-state Colorado River Compact. This Compact may prevent Utah’s Upper Basin water allocation from being delivered for Washington County’s proposed Lower Basin LPP use. What if Utahns assume billions in debt for the LPP, and it is subsequently determined that the LPP violates this Compact? Despite the public’s serious requests on this potentially decisive issue, the Draft Environmental Impact Statement’s cryptic response was “The Project Proponent is addressing this question with the Colorado River Basin States.” In addition, because the LPP intake and much of the pipeline would be in Arizona, the Draft Environmental Impact Statement acknowledges that the LPP is dependent on the issuance of several Arizona state and county permits. Under the current drought contingency plan, Arizona is already suffering from reduced Colorado River water deliveries. What if Arizona does not grant a needed permit or challenges the LPP diversion under the Compact?

Based on my reading of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, and comparing it to the scoping report, I believe that Bureau of Reclamation is simply following the Trump administration’s corrupt pattern of putting political expediency and serving developers and other wealthy special interests well above fidelity to law, science and public interest. Bureau of Reclamation is rushing to finish the NEPA process and approve the LPP before Trump may leave office next January. An informed and outraged public is needed to stand in the way. Don’t vote for pro-LPP politicians who are willing to gamble billions of our public dollars without an objective analysis of reasonable alternatives.

Submitted by RICHARD SPOTTS, St. George.

Letter No. 3: Economy and future generations are counting on us to produce needed water

The Bureau of Reclamation recently published the draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Lake Powell Pipeline, which I believe is critical to support the economy of our region.

Chantel Markel, date and location not specified. Markel is the author of a letter to the editor submitted to St. George News. | Photo courtesy of Chantel Markel, St. George News

Water will remain a necessary resource for securing economic stability in the future and has the potential to affect any industry’s ability to produce and employ residents. Washington County’s 4,500 businesses are highly interwoven in the region and throughout the state of Utah. Any disruption in the supply chain could have economic impacts beyond that of just one industry or business. Water is a direct input into several critical industries such as agriculture, manufacturing and utilities. A threat to any of these key industries, among others, becomes a threat to the rest of the economy as the ties to other industries become weakened or even disrupted.

We all benefit from the planning done by previous generations for the water we use today; future generations depend on us to plan wisely. Most of Utah’s growth is natural growth — our children and grandchildren will need water.

Our water providers have developed a comprehensive approach to supplying water for the future. It includes ongoing conservation, developing local water projects and building the LPP. I’m concerned that we can’t meet our future needs with our existing water sources and system. Most of Washington County relies on one water source: the Virgin River. If drought or other issues were to surface with the Virgin River, we have no other water sources. LPP brings a critical, reliable new source of water to the area, the Colorado River.

I support the LPP and am pleased we are getting to the end of the federal permitting process.

Submitted by CHANTEL MARKEL, Washington County Board of Realtors president.

Letters to the Editor are not the product of St. George News, its editors, staff or news contributors. The matters stated and opinions given are the responsibility of the person submitting them. They do not reflect the product or opinion of St. George News and are given only light edit for technical style and formatting.

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