The Timeline of the Lake Powell Pipeline

The Lake Powell pipeline project has been inactive for years, causing many to assume the project is dead. However, it is still a possibility. The pipeline aims to transport 86,000 acre-feet of water annually from drought-stricken Lake Powell on the Colorado River to southwestern Utah, stretching over 143 miles at a cost of billions of dollars. It was initially slated to generate electricity for public utilities and municipalities.

Despite being authorized by the Utah Legislature over 20 years ago, the project has not progressed. It has been held up by environmental impact statements and opposition from surrounding states. Critics argue that diverting water from Lake Powell contradicts ongoing efforts to conserve Colorado River water.

The project was greenlit in 2006, with the Utah Legislature authorizing the Utah Board of Water Resources to lead the pipeline’s planning and construction. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) had originally been involved, but in December 2019, Utah removed most hydropower from the project, eliminating the FERC’s license requirement.

The Bureau of Reclamation, housed within the U.S. Department of the Interior, was then tasked with leading the environmental impact statement process. The draft environmental impact statement was published in June 2020 but was met with opposition from the Kaibab Band of Paiute Indians.

The pipeline’s prospects were further questioned by the six other states of the Colorado River Basin, who asked the federal government to halt the pipeline until a consensus could be reached. Utah then requested more time to review public comments on the pipeline’s environmental impact statement.

Most recently, a group of environmental nonprofits from across the Colorado River Basin has called on the federal government to halt the pipeline project.

The project remains controversial, with nonprofits arguing that there is no surplus water in the Colorado River for the pipeline. They also claim that Washington County does not need water from Lake Powell, and that tribes in the region have unresolved Colorado River water rights that should take priority.

The Lake Powell pipeline has a long history of uncertainty. Its path forward remains unclear, with regulatory and environmental concerns continuing to pose significant challenges.

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