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Andrew Kramer: Proposed Colorado River Authority is secretive and invites corruption

Utah Legislature’s House Bill 297 must be soundly defeated

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Colorado River flows into Lake Powell near Hite Marina on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021.

Reliable fact-based studies prove the proposed multi-billion dollar Lake Powell pipeline — one of the most expensive projects in state history — is risky, cost prohibitive and unnecessary. Because pipeline proponents are obsessed with the pipeline being the only workable option to provide future water for Washington County, they refuse to fairly consider feasible alternatives that can be implemented at a fraction of the cost.

As taxpayers statewide and water users in Washington County who’d be required to pay for this massive project, we deserve complete, dependable information and accurate cost data, including well-reasoned analysis that demonstrates the need and economic viability of the pipeline.

Instead, since the project’s inception in 2006, and despite spending $35 million to $40 million of taxpayers’ money, studies by the Utah Division of Water Resources (DWR) and the Washington County Water Conservancy District (WCWCD) are biased, incomplete and ignore viable much less costly alternatives.

Because the LPP fails the test of reason, pipeline proponents rely on misleading arguments, skewed data and fear in an attempt to “sell” the LPP to those of us who are unaware of the facts and place undue trust in government authorities. Politics have replaced logic. Deception has replaced transparency.

There are several formidable obstacles to building the Lake Powell Pipeline which its proponents refuse to acknowledge. A partial list follows:

(1) Utah’s water rights are insecure. Water availability is not guaranteed. (2) Transferring water from the Upper Basin of the Colorado River to the Lower Basin, necessary with the pipeline, violates Colorado River law and would require approval of the six other basin states and Congress. (3) The six basin states requested Utah halt the federal approval process and negotiate legal and operational concerns or face lengthy and expensive legal action. (4) With a total cost of $4 billion to $6 billion, including bond interest, and no federal funding, the pipeline is cost prohibitive. (5) The 140-mile pipeline and associated infrastructure would cause extensive environmental damage.

Alternative methods, including water conservation, developing untapped water sources within Washington County and recycling wastewater obviate the need for the pipeline. At a cost of millions, not billions, these measures would provide sufficient water to serve more than 509,000, Washington County’s 2065 projected population, without the pipeline. These findings are confirmed in several studies including the conclusions of Water Resource Advocates, experts who analyze water issues for several Western states.

Now, because the LPP will not hold up to common-sense and facts, proponents have proposed House Bill 297, which would promote the pipeline in secret, without public scrutiny, and create a separate and costly government agency, the Colorado River Authority, to advance the pipeline. The authority would require $9 million of taxpayer money in start-up funding and additional funds thereafter.

In flagrant defiance of constituents’ rights, the authority would not be required to comply with conflict-of-interest provisions nor release communications and documents from their secret meetings. This is an egregious violation of the public’s right to know and would allow self-serving politicians to profit at the public’s expense without being held accountable.

HB297 is outrageous, unethical, deceitful and an arrogant breach of the public trust - and most likely unconstitutional.

HB297 would promote backroom politics and allow management of our state’s water and large infrastructure projects, including the Lake Powell pipeline, without accountability. Instead of transparency, it would legitimize secrecy, exclude public participation and keep secret the proposals about how our tax money is spent.

HB297 is reminiscent of Third-World, corrupt politics of dictatorships and must be soundly defeated.

To express your objections, call or email House Speaker Brad Wilson - 801-538-1029 - bradwilson@le.utah.gov , and Senate President Stuart Adams - 801-593-1776 - jsadams@le.utah.gov - and your local legislators.

Andrew Kramer

Andrew Kramer, Ivins, is a Vietnam veteran and retired architect who managed large projects with firms in Boston and Denver.

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