Letter: Horrific Colorado River bill would enshrine lack of accountability

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

In a nefarious move even by Utah Legislature standards, Senate President Stuart Adams and Speaker of the House Brad Wilson are sponsoring House Bill 297, the Colorado River Authority Act. HB297 sets up a shadowy government agency with no public accountability to manage Utah’s allotted share of waters from the Colorado River, setting the stage for unilateral decisions regarding the controversial Lake Powell Pipeline. The lengthy bill has built-in, extreme controls designed to evade public meeting laws and access to government records, and took just five hours from its surprise unveiling to land in the Natural Resources Committee, as opposed to the weeks-to-never timeline most bills endure on their way to committees.

Regardless of what one feels about the pipeline (which has faced severe recriminations from six other Western states, climate change activists, Utah water users, environmentalists, and others), the lack of accountability built into HB297 is a huge slap in the face to participatory government. Utah shouts loudest when it comes to states’ rights and “locals know best,” yet when local interests run counter to powerful officials (see Inland Port), their arguments are brushed aside.

HB297′s pedigree assures it will reach Gov. Cox’s desk. It behooves us all to speak out, not only against the content of this horrific bill, but against the manner in which it is being foisted upon us. Our very democracy is at stake.

Marjorie McCloy, Salt Lake City

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