Six western states have voiced opposition to the planned Lake Powell Pipeline, which would divert water from the Colorado River to fast-growing cities in southern Utah. KNAU’s Melissa Sevigny reports.
The Trump administration is weighing whether to approve an environmental impact statement for the Lake Powell Pipeline. But water agencies in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Wyoming wrote a letter to the U.S. Department of the Interior warning of unresolved legal issues that could spark lengthy litigation. They’ve asked for more time to work out a collaborative agreement with Utah that acknowledges the region’s long-term drought and growing population.
Zach Frankel of the Utah Rivers Council, a group that opposes the pipeline, calls the letter “historic.” He says, "The six states chiming with their concerns about water availability in the Colorado River is a welcome chance to educate Utah policymakers about how serious these temperature increases are on our snowpack and runoff."
Frankel says downward trends in the river’s flow due to climate change are expected to continue. But Joel Williams of the Utah Division of Water Resources says the environmental impact statement considers climate change scenarios and determined the project will have sufficient water. "We wouldn’t have water today if it wasn’t for large water infrastructure projects that came before... and I think now that’s the position that St. George is in, looking at needing this additional water," Williams says.
The 140-mile-long pipeline will deliver eighty sixty thousand acre feet of water annually to southern Utah at a cost of about two billion dollars.