Committee hears alternative to Lake Powell Pipeline project

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ST. GEORGE – More aggressive water conservation, or more water resources? That was the debate at the Washington County Integrated Resource Planning Advisory Committee meeting.

The committee held a public meeting Thursday to hear an alternative plan to the Lake Powell Pipeline project.

The pipeline is a project that’s been in the works for close to 20 years and would pump water from Lake Powell to Washington County, addressing the area’s future water needs.

“It continues, as we continue to grow, to be more important to the long-term economic prosperity of this county,” said Washington County Water Conservancy District General Manager Ronald Thompson.

The alternative plan, presented by environmental group Western Resource Advocates, said the solution to future water needs will be found by looking inside the county, not outside.

“Conservation needs to be the primary focus,” said Western Resource Advocate Water and Energy analyst Amelia Nudig. “Do conservation. Do reuse. Maximize what you’ve got.”

Western Resource Advocates is just one of several environmental groups opposing the pipeline. The alternative plan looks at a cost analysis, and it shows that the cost of an aggressive conservation plan would be $510 million. The Lake Powell Pipeline has an estimated cost of $1,513 million.

“I think that there were some [figures] that are more skewed to bring a point across,” said CIRPAC member David Clark. “Maybe not representative of what life would be like here in Utah, particularly in Washington County.”

The majority of the public in attendance at the meeting are in opposition, believing that the situation is not as dire as the studies are making it sound.

“They’re putting the fear of God into all of us that we’re going to need this water so fast,” opponent Bob Amoroso said. “We don’t need the water. We have enough water.”

Eric Mills, deputy director of the state’s Division of Water Resources, also presented at the meeting. He said while conservation is a large part of the state’s plan for securing water resources, adding to those resources is the primary focus.

Cost versus benefit is one of the biggest arguments. Under the proposed plan, the pipeline will in part pay for itself through providing electricity, but opponents worry that the state’s multi-million dollar pipeline will end up costing the taxpayers more.

The pipeline is still in early development, and construction likely wouldn’t even begin until 2015.