Utah Asks Federal Government to Resume Permitting for Lake Powell Pipeline
State water officials have spent more than $30 million over the past decade readying its proposals for the pipeline, which would carry water some 140 miles out of Lake Powell and across parts of Utah and Arizona to thirsty communities in Washington and Kane counties.
The 140-mile pipeline would cross the state line between Utah and Arizona, cover long stretches of federally controlled public lands and in at least one scenario could move through the Kaibab Paiute Tribe reservation.
State officials applied for the project through FERC because of proposed hydroelectric facilities that would be built along the pipeline. The water would be pumped out of Lake Powell to a high point within the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument area, then flow downhill toward St. George, passing through a series of hydroelectric turbines along the way.
FERC announced in December it would move ahead with an environmental analysis, but it also suggested it might not have jurisdiction to permit the "penstock" pipelines that feed the power facilities.
Local water managers say the pipeline is needed to keep up with growing demands for water in the fast-growing St. George area, where the population is forecast to balloon from about 165,000 today to more than 500,000 over the next 50 years.
The pipeline has been the target of controversy among conservationists. It is one of a series of projects states have proposed to pull more water from the Colorado River system despite evidence that the river’s supplies are overdrawn and that climate change is likely to dry the region further in the future.
"When FERC re-starts the permitting process, we will continue to lock arms with environmental colleagues across the American West to fight this river-destroying, unnecessary project," Gary Wockner, director of Save the Colorado, a nonprofit based in Fort Collins, Colorado, said in an email. "At this point in history, proposing to take even more water out of the Colorado River is simply insane."