From The Westerner Blog
Sun-scorched desert mesa, 140 miles of it, lies between Lake Powell, the nation’s second-largest reservoir, and Utah’s Washington County, one of America’s driest metropolitan regions.
It’s a long way in miles — but not insurmountable to the Washington County Water Conservancy District, which is charged with ensuring a rapidly growing desert community has water. The district plans to link the reservoir and the county with one of the longest and most expensive water pipelines ever proposed in the West. Ample sunshine and less than 8 inches of rain a year have proved so attractive that a seemingly ceaseless wave of residential and retail construction blankets the desert near here and climbs to the summits of the region’s red rock buttes.
Since 1990, Washington County, 90 miles east of Las Vegas, has more than tripled in population to 165,000 residents, many of them living in St. George and its rapidly growing suburbs. Demographers project that 400,000 more people could arrive by 2060.
The 140-mile-long Lake Powell pipeline is what state planners see as the best way to avoid a water shortage calamity. Almost 30 years after county and state water managers introduced the idea — and three years after it was initially scheduled to be completed — the mega water transport plan is finally inching toward its first significant regulatory decision.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which is overseeing the pipeline proposal, is weighing whether to start a two-year study of the environmental consequences of construction and operations on the project’s route through four counties in Utah and Arizona.
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