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Iron County rejects Lake Powell Pipeline
by KRISTEN DANIEL
Mar 28, 2012 | 765 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
IRON COUNTY – Iron County will officially have no further participation with the Lake Powell Pipeline after the Central Iron County Water Conservancy District board, Cedar City Council and Enoch City Council all voted unanimously against bringing the project to Iron County.

The CICWCD was expected to give an answer to the state by the end of this month, and the board asked for the city councils of Cedar City and Enoch to vote so it would know their feelings. Both city councils voted last Wednesday, and the CICWCD board voted at its meeting Thursday.

When asked to vote, or postpone voting to ensure the Cedar City Council had done its due diligence, the councilors expressed they had been following the issue for a long time, and all information they gathered made them certain that voting against participating in the pipeline was the right thing to do.

Public commentary during the Cedar City meeting was all against the pipeline with the reminder from one citizen that all future projections indicate the Intermountain West would become more arid in future years.

The newest council members, John Black, Don Marchant, and Paul Cozzens, have expressed in the past that during the recent election they did not hear community support for the pipeline.

“During the campaign this was the biggest issue for a lot of people,” Black said.

The CICWCD board has moved to explore other options in improving the valley’s water supply.

The CICWCD was guaranteed 13,429 acre feet of water rights with participation in the pipeline, but in order to act on that filing and participate in the pipeline, there would have had to be financial involvement from both Cedar City and Enoch to shoulder the cost.

CICWCD Board Chair Brent Hunter addressed the board and audience last Thursday on other options that exist for the community and the district, focusing on their plan to recharge the aquifer and the district’s filings on water in the West Desert. He also said there may be untapped ground water in the Rush Lake area, which other parties are looking into. He also spoke at the Enoch City Council meeting Wednesday and mentioned conservation, the conversion of agricultural land as the population grows, and future innovation and technology.

“I have a lot of faith in human progress,” he said.

The district has filed on 26,000 acre feet of water in the West Desert and is quite certain, based on the tests done by previous entities, that the water is there, but the filing must be approved by the state engineer.

Hunter expressed that they are optimistic the state engineer will approve at least half of their filings in the West Desert, although it may take years before the final decision is made.

All the options that exist for the district to explore, including using unused water from Coal Creek and the abandoned water in Quitchipa for recharging the aquifer, which is already in the planning stages, are things Hunter said contributed to his decision not to continue in the Lake Powell Pipeline.

“Things are not as desperate as we have been led to believe,” he said.

Hunter reported at the Enoch meeting that it is estimated 4,000 to 6,000 acre feet are being withdrawn from the aquifer each year beyond what is being replaced. While he said this is a bad trend, he added that “we think we can bring ourselves into equilibrium just by using the water we have.”

He said other options, like the West Desert filings, could help with getting enough water for future growth.

“Let’s not worry about Lake Powell,” he said at the Enoch meeting. “We’ve got lots of potential.”

Enoch City Councilor John Banks said he had done a lot of research before coming to his decision against the pipeline.

“To me this is a huge decision because we’re talking about the livelihood of the people living here,” he said.

The conservancy district has stayed involved in the pipeline to this point to gather information on costs and keep its options open. Late last year Division of Water Resources Director Dennis Strong informed the Central Iron County Water Conservancy District that a final decision must be made regarding the Cedar Valley’s involvement in the pipeline by March 30, 2012.

In order to remain active in the pipeline and keep its interest in the 13,429 acre feet, the conservancy district would have had to pay half of a $250,000 payment immediately and half next year.

“If we want to stay in we’re going to have to step up to the plate and start paying the money,” Hunter said.

Enoch City Manager Rob Dotson gave a presentation at the Enoch City Council meeting and Cozzens presented at the Cedar City meeting, using a modified version of Dotson’s presentation.

“I think this is the one of biggest financial decisions in the history of the city,” Cozzens said, “so it’s vital that people understand it.”

Understanding exactly all the numbers involved in the pipeline is difficult as they are all only estimates and change considerably depending on a number of factors.

“The numbers are all over the place,” Cozzens said. “That makes it difficult to see exactly where the end product will be.”

As of January 2011 the CICWCD projected that construction costs to bring water to the Cedar Valley from the $1 billion pipeline are $367.4 million, with an approximate $50.8 million in additional facilities that would have to be built in order to utilize the water, bringing construction costs to approximately $450 million with estimated additional costs.

These costs do not include the added interest over a 50-year low-interest loan from the state of Utah. Power to pump the water uphill to the valley would cost an estimated additional $4 million each year and maintenance of the system is estimated at between $4 and $8 million per year.

In order to pay for the water, when 4 percent interest is included, the Cedar Valley would face annual loan payments of approximately $20 million per year.

The Cedar City councilors said it was far too expensive and risky to participate.

Cozzens said there will likely have to be increases to water rates to fund the exploration and development of water resources, and he hopes that the public will understand and support these small increases as they are needed to plan and prepare for the future of the area.

Cozzens said the tiered system to ensure that those who use more would pay more is the most effective way through free-market principles to encourage conservation.

All Cedar City Councilors also agreed that conservation will have to be more central and prevalent for all citizens.

CICWCD General Manager George Mason said they are optimistic at least a portion of their filing on water in the West Desert will be approved, and with that they should be in a good position to provide the area with the water it needs as growth occurs.

Ashley Langston contributed to this article.

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