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PROVO — The public comment period regarding a water pipeline project in southern Utah is now open, as the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation prepares an Environmental Impact Statement regarding the project.
The Lake Powell Pipeline is a proposed 140-mile water line that would take water from the Lake Powell near Glen Canyon Dam in Page, Arizona, and bring it to Sand Hollow Reservoir in Hurricane, Washington County. It would have pumping stations and hydropower facilities across southern Utah and northern Arizona, as well as a water storage tank located east of Kanab.
The pipeline would serve as a secondary source of water for residents in Kane and Washington counties. A Utah legislative audit released in August estimated construction costs for the project to reach about $1.43 billion based on 2015 dollars. However, state water officials said in September they were able to knock the total estimate down $100 million by changing the plan to “align with regulatory changes and reduce environmental impacts.”
The changes included removing two planned reservoirs for the generation of electricity during peak demand. The project is expected to be repaid through impact fees, water sales and property taxes, the August audit stated.
Public input began on Friday. The Bureau of Reclamation’s webpage states the agency is seeking comments related to “anticipated impacts” of the pipeline, such as environmental data gaps, information needs, new data or information that would be pertinent to the project.
“The public scoping process is an important step in informing interested parties of the proposed action and gathering their issues and concerns. Their input will help Interior define the scope of the EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) and identify significant issues to be analyzed in-depth,” said Wayne Pullan, Bureau of Reclamation’s Provo area office manager, in a news release.
While the pipeline would provide southwestern Utahns with a second water source, it has its critics. Two of those are Salt Lake City-based Utah Rivers Council and St. George-based Conserve Southwest Utah, which both argue the area’s per capita water consumption exceeds some major cities and the national average, and therefore question the necessity of it. Washington County Water Conservancy District's webpage dedicated to the project refutes that claim and counters that conservation measures may cost more than a pipeline.
Should the project pass the Environmental Impact Statement, the Utah legislative audit noted there were still a few more steps before construction can begin, such as a final project design and a financing plan. Construction could begin as early as 2023 and conclude as early as 2028.
Comments about the environmental aspect can be submitted online at the Bureau of Reclamation’s website, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, by fax at 801-379-1159 or by mailing the agency’s Provo office: Lake Powell Pipeline Project / Bureau of Reclamation, Provo Area Office / 302 E. Lakeview Parkway / Provo, Utah 84606.
Anyone wishing to leave public comment must have their comments submitted by 11:59 p.m. on Jan. 10, 2020.