ST. GEORGE Dixie residents turned out to voice their opinions on a proposed $800 million pipeline that would bring water from Lake Powell to quench the growing thirst of the state's fastest-growing region.
Wayne Hamilton urged representatives of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission who were hosting the public meeting to "look into the forecast for climate change."
"I wonder if a full-size pipeline will be half full because of decreases in the Colorado River discharge," Hamilton said to a burst of applause from about 200 people attending the meeting at the Dixie Center.
FERC is taking the lead on the massive water project that would pump 70,000 acre feet of water 158 miles from Lake Powell to Washington County. Kane County would get another 10,000 acre feet, while Iron County is poised to receive 20,000 acre feet of water.
Most of those attending Wednesday's meeting opposed the project, citing its projected cost as a major problem.
"What benefit is it for Washington County?" wondered Stephen Roth, who has lived there 25 years. "People need to say, 'OK, our town is big enough, you don't need to worry about it any longer."'
The proposed 66-inch diameter pipe would be buried the entire length of the project, which would follow along U.S. 89 much of the way before dipping into Arizona and then picking up state Route 59 near Hurricane. Much of the pipeline would parallel a utility corridor already in place.
Greg Stevens, a St. George native, garnered little applause when he said he supported the project.
"We desperately need this project. It should have been built a long time ago," said Stevens. "Anybody not in support of it really needs to go back and think about our ancestors. You don't just move to a place, put a gate up and say nobody else can live here in this paradise."
FERC is taking the lead in the project because it includes seven hydroelectric power plants, which proponents say could help defray some of the project's steep price tag.
St. George City Water Services director Barry Barnum said the city supports the project.
"The Lake Powell pipeline is the most cost-effective, environmentally safe, best-quality water available," Barnum said. "Growth should be dealt with as a growth policy and not as a water policy."
That's not the way others see it, said Lin Alder, who is running for a seat on the Washington County Commission.
"We believe this issue should be decided by those who would carry the debt and suffer the increased traffic, sprawl, smog, crime and loss of our small-town character," Alder said. "We're asking our elected officials and FERC staff to treat these next three years of the permitting process as a way to identify the absolute best plan for our water future, not just one imported from Salt Lake City."
Washington County Commissioner Jim Eardley also spoke to the group, reminding those in attendance that the County Commission spearheaded the Vision Dixie process that focused on public participation on growth issues.
"This is an important public project for the future needs of our citizens," Eardley said. "It is the best alternative. I doubt we'll find another project like the Lake Powell pipeline that could serve our needs. As chairman of the Vision Dixie process, I can tell you this is the very essence of smart growth."More information about the Lake Powell pipeline project can be found online at lakepowellpipeline.org.