Last week, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, also known as FERC, formally accepted the state’s application for the Lake Powell Pipeline. This notice affirms that the proposed 140-mile pipeline, which would draw water from the Colorado River to serve southwestern Utah communities is ready for environmental analysis and public comment.
For proponents of the pipeline, the announcements mark a major milestone toward the goal of meeting the future water needs of southwestern Utah communities. Meanwhile, opponents of the plan claim the pipeline will be too expensive and is not needed.
Nick Schou, conservation director at Utah Rivers Council, represents groups who worry the economic shortcomings of the project make it difficult to justify the pipeline.
“What we’re still… still fighting for, is to get numbers from the state, about whether this project is financially feasible. Under the Lake Powell Pipeline Act, the project is supposed to be repaid in full, 100%, to state taxpayers, by the recipients of the water," Schou said. "So the state has tried really hard to keep that discussion out of the legislature and the public domain and they claim to FERC that they will have a feasibility study on the socioeconomics 90 days before construction begins.”
Conservation groups worry that, without a clear timeline, state taxpayers will end up shouldering the hefty economic burden of the pipeline. Others wonder if the pipeline is the best solution for southern Utah counties which already boast comparatively high water usage rates
"According to the official documents given to FERC by the state, residents of Washington County use 325 gallons per person per day, that’s more than twice the national average. After 10 years and $32 million, there’s been no documentation for the need for this project,” Schou said.
Now that the Ready for Environmental Analysis has been released those on both sides of the issue are using the announcement to reignite discussions about the pipeline. The notice allows for public comment during the next 60 days to address environmental, social and economic impacts of the Lake Powell Pipeline.