Hydropower could be part of Lake Powell pipeline
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) ” Utah is taking the first step toward building the 139-mile Lake Powell pipeline to bring more water to rapidly growing communities in the state’s southwestern corner.
The Division of Water Resources said Tuesday it had filed for a federal permit to generate hydroelectric power from the pipeline.
The pipeline will climb 2,500 feet, then drop 3,000 feet into Washington County’s Sand Hollow Reservoir, where the water will be distributed to communities around St. George.
The hydropower would be sold to offset uphill pumping costs, said Larry Anderson, the pipeline’s project manager.
A second pipeline that has yet to be mapped would take water to Cedar City, 50 miles northeast of St. George.
In all, the pipeline will deliver 100,000 acre-feet of water a year, drawing on Utah’s share of the Colorado River. An acre-foot is 326,000 gallons of water, the amount used by a typical household in a year.
The Colorado River Compact gives Utah 1.4 million acre-feet of water, but the state takes only about 1 million a year from the Colorado River, said Dennis Strong, director of the Division of Water Resources.
Strong said his division plans to start delivering the Lake Powell water by 2020, but Utah legislators haven’t decided how to pay for the $600 million project.
That figure, an estimate Strong plans to revise this summer, covers the cost of building the pipeline and pumping stations but doesn’t include the hydropower plants.
While the financing hasn’t been fixed, Strong said the Utah Board of Water Resources probably will sell bonds to raise money for the project. Local water districts would buy the water, helping pay off the debt. In the end, the pipeline will be paid for by water users.
The buried pipeline will cross federal land, state trust land and some private land, where owners will be offered “fair compensation,” division deputy director Eric Millis said.
The division plans to explain its plans in a series of public meetings March 31-April 3 in Kanab, Hurricane, Apple Valley and Big Water.
Millis said Utah is going to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission first instead of other federal agencies for approvals because FERC can act as lead agency and handle everything at once.
Also, asking FERC to take charge will mean doing one environmental-impact study instead of two, he said.
The Division of Water Resources filed its plans on March 4. Federal approval could take about four years, Millis said.
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