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Utah submits more details on Lake Powell Pipeline licensing

FILE - Hikers climb the Hole in the Rock at Lake Powell on Aug. 21, 2003.
FILE - Hikers climb the Hole in the Rock at Lake Powell on Aug. 21, 2003.
Ravell Call, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah submitted additional paperwork on the proposed Lake Powell Pipeline to the federal licensing agency conducting the review of the $1.3 billion project.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission asked for additional details on cultural resources potentially impacted by the pipeline's 140-mile route, financial feasibility and cost impacts, as well as available per capita water use data for the past six years.

“Our response provided appropriate information at this stage in the project’s advancement,” said Eric Millis, director of the state Division of Water Resources. "Additional information will be shared as it becomes available.”

The state's response on financial questions, according to Millis, clarifies:

• Construction can't begin until water conservancy districts in Washington and Kane counties have contracts in place for 70 percent of the water planned for delivery.

• There are three revenue options to repay the project costs of the project.

• The state will play a "signficant" role in financing the project, although details remain under review.

Utah authorities submitted the final batch of paperwork requested by the licensing agency Thursday, detailing the state's AAA bond rating, growing economy and projected population increases in southern Utah. They also distributed a summary of the filings to the agency.

The pipeline, which will serve 13 communities, is a hydropower project that will feature five pump stations and six hydroelectric generation facilities.

Critics complain the pipeline is unnecessary and financially unfeasible. On Wednesday, the Utah Rivers Council asked the state auditor's office to determine if any laws were broken in a recent legislative hearing where a project update was given.

The letter accuses officials of misleading the state Water Development Commission on per capita use, inflating the need for more water in the future when conservation could accomplish the same goal as the pipeline.

On Friday, the Utah Rivers Council Executive Director Zach Frankel said he believes state officials still have not demonstrated the project's financial feasibility with this latest round of paperwork. The papers filed did not not adequately address repayment or impacts to water rates, he said.

In 2006, the Utah Legislature authorized pursuit of the Lake Powell Pipeline to capture the state's unused share of Colorado River water, about 80,000 acre-feet.

Proponents of the project contend conservation alone won't meet future water needs. By 2065, Washington County's population is projected to grow to 508,952 — the No. 1 county in the state for population growth.