Iron County pulls out of Lake Powell pipeline project
Cedar City • Plans for Iron County to become a partner in the Lake Powell pipeline dried up on Thursday when its water conservancy district voted to kill participation in the project.
Following the lead of Cedar City and Enoch, which passed resolutions Wednesday against participation, the Central Iron County Water Conservancy District board had little choice but to also opt out of the project as it would have relied on those cities to pay for the bill for the county's part in the project.
Costs vary on the price of building the pipeline to Cedar City, but estimates hover around $450 million including delivery, infrastructure and a treatment plan.
Washington and Kane counties remain committed to the pipeline proposed to deliver 100,000 acre-feet of water from the reservoir 150 miles to Washington County with a diversion in Kane County along the way. Plans called for 13,000 acre-feet to then be pumped uphill to Iron County.
Current plans call for the state to bond for the project estimated to cost between $1 billion and $2.5 billion.
Iron County conservancy district Chairman Brent Hunter detailed how through conservation, development of other resources and projects to recharge aquifers, future demands for water can be satisfied at a fraction of the pipeline's cost.
"We're not as helpless as we've been led to believe," said Hunter.
Cedar City and Enoch in discussions at their council meetings Wednesday night also stressed they can get by without the pipeline, saying it could have curbed future growth through higher impact fees, taxes and water rates.
Ron Thompson, executive director of the Washington County Water Conservancy District, said Thursday the decision by the cities in neighboring Iron County could turn out to have a negative effect in the future because there won't be a second chance to secure the water.
Thompson, who believes cost estimates for the project are greatly exaggerated, said cities in Washington County are all in support of the pipeline because they need to meet projected demand of one of the country's fastest growing areas.
He said his conservancy district is currently just waiting for the environmental studies on the project to be completed before moving forward on the pipeline expected to deliver 60,000 acre-feet of water a year to Washington County.
An acre-foot of water is equal to about 350,000 gallons or what a typical family of four uses in a year.
Mike Noel, director of the water conservancy district in Kane County that has the opportunity to draw 10,000 acre-feet of water from the pipeline, also believes Iron County's decision is myopic and officials may regret the decision.
"They may have made a mistake, but the future will tell," said Noel, who also serves as a legislator in the Utah House. "Our [conservancy] board is 100 percent behind our participation."