Cedar City says no to Lake Powell pipeline
Project • Washington and Kane counties also need to make a decision on their participation.
Published: March 22, 2012 11:49AM
Updated: March 22, 2012 11:44AM

Cedar City • In an unanimous vote Wednesday night, the City Council here approved a resolution not to support participation in the Lake Powell pipeline. The city council of neighboring Enoch followed suit in a separate meeting.

The final decision is to be made by the Central Iron County Water Conservancy District, likely at a meeting Thursday night. But support from the city was the only way to cover the cost for the $450 million portion of the pipeline to Iron County. Cedar City residents would likely be hit with impact fees and higher water bills.

In the end, the project was deemed just too expensive to go forward.

In a presentation before the vote, Councilman Paul Cozzens, who represents the city on the conservancy district board, emphasized the costs and cautioned the other four council members.

“This is the biggest financial decision in the city’s history,” said Cozzens.

The conservancy district needs to make its final decision by the end of the month to meet a deadline by the state on whether the county wants in or out on the project.

Washington and Kane counties also need to make a decision on their participation. But cities in Washington County that are served by its conservancy district, including St. George, have already signaled support the project as has Kane County, which exempts them from the deadline.

To pay for the Iron County portion, impact fees in the next 50 years could hit $40,000 just for a house hookup in Cedar City. Such steep costs could essentially kill future growth in the city, which has about 28,000 residents.

Enoch on Wednesday night passed a similar resolution not to participate in the project for the same reasons. Councilman John Banks said after assessing all the information on the pipeline, the city’s share of the project — $40 million dollars — was prohibitive.

“It was so costly it wasn’t worth it,” said Banks. “We have plenty of other options that are more beneficial.”

George Mason, manager of the conservancy district, said that he is confident that development of other water sources and conservation will satisfy projected demands. He expects the cities’ action will have a bearing on the district’s final decision.

“We need to honor the vote and act accordingly,” he said.

The project has been in the works since 2006. It proposes to deliver 100,000 acre feet of water belonging to Utah from Lake Powell in a 60-inch pipeline to Sand Hollow Reservoir in Washington County, which will get about 60,000 acre-feet of the water; Kane County has dibs on about 4,000 acre-feet.

The 13,500 acre-feet promised for Iron County will be held by the state if the county pulls out of the project. If the county does opt out, it will not have a second opportunity to claim the water. Without Iron County, the total cost of the project — projected at $2.5 billion — would decrease.

For Iron County to receive any water, it would have to pump the water through a 30-inch pipeline from Sand Hollow uphill for a 3,000-foot gain in elevation.

Douglas Hall, who heads the Iron County Alliance of Taxpayers and who has been a critic of the project, said it made no sense for the county to participate. “Even if the water got here, who could afford it?” he asked.