ST. GEORGE, Utah (AP) — The state of Utah wants the federal government to resume its work permitting the Lake Powell Pipeline project.
Utah water officials in January asked to halt the project, worried over jurisdictional questions about whether the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission would continue to act as the permitting agency, The Spectrum reported .
The state still hasn’t received any answers, and attorneys for the Utah Board of Water Resources and the Washington County Water Conservancy District filed a letter Wednesday with the commission asking it to proceed.
“Because it is extremely important that the licensing of this critical infrastructure project for the State of Utah move forward expeditiously, UBWR and WCWCD desire to now have the procedural schedule reinstated,” according to the letter.
State water officials have spent more than $30 million over the past decade readying its proposals for the pipeline, which would carry water some 140 miles out of Lake Powell and across parts of Utah and Arizona to communities in Washington and Kane counties.
State officials applied for the project through the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission because of proposed hydroelectric facilities that would be built along the pipeline. The water would be pumped out of Lake Powell to a high point within the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument area, then flow downhill toward St. George, passing through a series of hydroelectric turbines along the way.
Local water managers say the pipeline is needed to keep up with growing demands for water in the fast-growing St. George area, where the population is forecast to balloon from about 165,000 today to more than 500,000 over the next 50 years.
The pipeline has been the target of controversy among conservationists. It is one of a series of projects states have proposed to pull more water from the Colorado River system despite evidence that the river’s supplies are overdrawn and that climate change is likely to dry the region further in the future.