The Kane County Water Conservancy District has pulled out of a pipeline project designed to pump water to two southern Utah counties, leaving Washington County as the only proposed future user of the pipeline.
The decision comes as the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has started to develop an environmental impact statement draft for the project as required by the National Environmental Policy Act, The Spectrum reported.
The one-year review process began in December 2019 and a draft is expected this summer after more than 1,000 public comments were submitted. After the department releases the draft impact statement, a new public comment period will open, officials said. A decision is expected by 2021.
The proposed 140-mile pipeline now excludes a $35 million 10-mile pipeline that would have diverted water to Kane County, Washington County water district spokesperson Karry Rathje said.
The overall project is estimated to cost up to $1.8 billion, which would be repaid over 50 years with impact fees, water rates and property taxes, officials said.
“We continue to support the Lake Powell Pipeline and consider it absolutely essential to the future of southwestern Utah,” Kane County water district general manager Mike Noel said.
Kane County made the decision after reviewing the county’s projected population and available water. University of Utah’s Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute recently projected more than 50% population growth by 2065, or about 11,400 people.
“KCWCD’s decision was made after reviewing the population projections and currently available water supply. Kane County is fortunate to have local water resources that they can develop to meet its currently projected growth. If Kane County grows more than currently projected, KCWCD has the option to complete the necessary NEPA and connect to the LPP in the future,” Rathje said.
Kane County would have received about 5% of the projected annual amount of water to the region from Lake Powell, officials said.
The water rights that would have been held by the county will now be held by the Utah Board of Water Resources.
Critics have called the pipeline an unnecessary use of funds and encourage better water use.