An environmental analysis of the Lake Powell Pipeline has resumed. The Utah Division of Water Resources learned last week that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC, will not provide all of the permits needed to construct the pipeline, but will continue to oversee environmental assessments.
Joshua Palmer is with the state's water resource division. It is his job to help explain how last week's FERC announcement will impact a review and permitting process for a plan that would deliver water to 13 southern Utah communities in one of the driest areas of the state. He says currently there are an estimated 160,000 residents living in the area.
"And, it is projected to be more than 500,000 by 2065," Palmer said. "That's something that we look at. With the same amount of water, can you actually supply for that many more people in the region?"
The Virgin River is the single source for water in St. George and nearby communities. The state would like to diversify and use water from Colorado River shares to meet projected demands.
"This region, even with the Lake Powell Pipeline, will not get to where it needs to get without further water conservation. I want to make that really clear," he said.
Environmental groups like Western Resource Advocates argue water conservation and secondary water metering could help meet water needs and would be less expensive.
The public can file comments about the pipeline proposal through FERC. Palmer explains the commission is still overseeing The National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA, which is a United States environmental law calling for environmental assessment.
"From the division standpoint, we believe carrying out the NEPA process will identify the best way to move forward," Palmer said.
Initial comments are due November 19. The subsequent 45-day response period will close January 3, 2019.