On Wednesday, the Washington County Water Conservancy District will hold an open house at the district offices on Red Hills Parkway to “educate” the public about the Lake Powell Pipeline. Having studied this project for 10 years, I’m sure this will be more effort to gin up support for this project that is a boondoggle for a few who will make money off it while the rest of us pay.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) public comment period is underway now until end of February and the public should make its feelings known about this project. The state is providing information to the feds to show the need, but the information is fraught with problems.
Take, for example, the latest conservation report by Maddaus (Conservation Technical Analysis 2015) that shows how we plan to conserve. This report shows 2060 projected gallons per capita per day to be 317 without conservation and 282 gpcd “at best” with conservation. So, in about 50 years we will still be using more water in our Kanab/Virgin River basin than other desert areas are using now?
What these figures do, if not provide accuracy, is help the state and district support the need for the pipeline. By keeping our usage number high, they can use population growth to work the numbers in favor of the pipeline. What they don’t do is show how much we really can conserve.
The district is touting a pipeline project in Colorado Springs to show how manageable our project would be. What they may fail to communicate is that Colorado Springs made incredible conservation efforts and grew to 400,000 before taking on a 50-mile pipeline that cost just under $1 billion! Apparently, that military-heavy community has its head screwed on straight, while our growth-focused community does not.
This brings me to this week’s What’s Up Down South economic summit at which local leaders and business people will gather to celebrate successes and plan for the future. Of course, water manager Ron Thompson is one of the presenters, along with Tage Flint from Weber County’s water district, to again gin up support for the pipeline prior to this year’s legislative session in which water lobbyists will be pocketing our tax dollars by encouraging spending more money on the project.
Growth is a given. What kind of growth and its benefits for this area are not givens. Our county has been one of the fastest growing in Utah. Yet, according to the latest data from Utah’s Department of Workforce Services, Washington County ranks 25th of 29 counties in per capita income and 18th in median household income. Our second-place ranking in non-farm jobs has not equated to money in families’ pockets. Detectives, criminal investigators and pharmacists rank at top of income scale – over $100K – while teachers and others huddle below $60K and most others far below that!