Utah officials make changes to the Lake Powell Pipeline to reduce costs

Lake Powell, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. Photo: National Park Service

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, Sept. 25, 2019 (Gephardt Daily) — The Utah Board of Water Resources is simplifying the Lake Powell Pipeline project by eliminating two reservoirs proposed to generate hydropower at times of peak demand, it was announced Wednesday.

The modifications will reduce project costs more than $100 million, align with regulatory changes and reduce environmental impacts, according to a news release from the Utah Division of Water Resources.

The pipeline will still be able to produce hydropower using inline facilities.

“The primary purpose of the pipeline is to diversify and increase the water supply for 13 communities in southwestern Utah,” said Eric Millis, director of the Utah Division of Water Resources, in a prepared statement.

“Focusing on the water delivery portion of the project streamlines the permitting process and helps move the project forward as efficiently as possible.”

The Utah Board of Water Resources is currently working on the federal permitting activities associated with the construction of the pipeline, including requirements under the National Environmental Policy Act, officials said. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has been the lead federal agency for the National Environmental Policy Act process, the statement said.

However, the commission suggested the Board of Water Resources consider using the hydropower conduit exemption expanded by Congress in 2018. This eliminates the commission’s license requirement for the pipeline given each of the project’s inline facilities will produce less than 40 megawatts of power, the statement said.

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The Board of Water Resources has requested that the U.S. Department of the Interior lead the effort for completing the Environmental Impact Statement. It’s anticipated that the timeline and steps required to adhere to the National Environmental Policy Act under the Department of the Interior are comparable to the current schedule.

“Project changes also align with recommendations to reduce environmental impacts as suggested by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,” the news release said. “The removal of the reservoirs will eliminate impacts on several hundred acres of land that includes habitat for the desert tortoise and reduce potential impacts to waters of the U.S.”

The Lake Powell Pipeline is part of a long-term water supply plan for southern Utah that includes new resource development and increased water conservation. The pipeline will annually transport up to 86,249 acre-feet of water from Lake Powell through an approximately 140-mile buried pipeline to Washington and Kane counties.

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