WASHINGTON COUNTY (ABC4 News) – Supporters of the highly controversial Lake Powell Pipeline say it’s the answer to Southern Utah’s rapid growth, but critics say the $2 billion price tag and environmental impact will burden residents.
Washington County officials said water conservation alone will not be enough to meet the growing needs of the community, and the pipeline would bring water to 13 communities in Southern Utah, introduce a new source of water, and store it closer to St. George.
“Finding water, containing it, and directing it has always been an issue,” said St. George Mayor Jon Pike.
The pipeline would transport up to 82,000 acre-feet of water each year from Lake Powell to Sand Hollow Reservoir.
But opponents are calling the pipeline unnecessary, saying that water sources are abundant and the pipeline will put residents of Southern Utah in debt.
“If Washington County is running out of water, how come they have the cheapest water rates in the American West?” asked Utah Rivers Council director Zachary Frankel. “Where are the elected officials that are representing their constituents to ensure an inexpensive water supply is planned for the future?”
Researchers at the University of Utah said the pipeline could raise impact fees up to 138%, water rates by about 570%, and property taxes to the maximum rate allowed by state law.
But Washington County officials said the university’s reported numbers may not be accurate.
“I think the numbers that were cited by some of those studies are inflammatory and haven’t looked at the true costs,” said deputy general manager of the Washington County Water Conservancy District Zachary Renstrom.
St. George Mayor Jon Pike says roughly 70 percent of the pipeline would be paid for by impact fees, 15 percent by water rates, and 10 percent by property taxes.
“New growth ought to pay for the majority of the costs of the Lake Powell Pipeline,” said Pike.
Washington County officials said they will likely get approval through the federal government in the next year and a half.