Six States Want Colorado River Pipeline Slowed

The seven states of the Colorado River Compact usually stay out of each other's business once the water is divvied up, but in a surprising move, six of the compact states have signed a letter to raise concerns about Utah's pipeline plans.

2 minute read

September 18, 2020, 7:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


A pipeline project intended to supply water for the St. George are of Utah is drawing a rare kind of scrutiny from nearby states that also rely on Colorado River water. | Jeremy Christensen / Shutterstock

Following a few months after the release of the Environmental Impact Statement for the Lake Powell Pipeline project, six of the seven states that rely on water from the Colorado River have asked federal regulators at the U.S. Department of the Interior to slow down the process. 

An on-air feature, transcribed for the KJZZ site, digs into the implications of the letter sent by six states to oppose the actions of he state of Utah in seeking to build a pipeline for shipping Colorado River water to the fast growing community of St. George, Utah. Lauren Gilger and Mark Brodie host the show, speaking with John Fleck, author and director of the University of New Mexico Water Resources Program, for insight into the significance of the kerfuffle. Fleck explains: 

The letter was really surprising to a lot of us and really striking because we have a tradition in the Colorado River Basin that states don't mess in other states' business — that what a state does with the water within its boundaries is that, is each state's business. And the letter, there's a kind of a remarkable breakdown of that bargain. This is six states getting together and saying, "We have a problem with what Utah is doing and the way Utah is doing it with its share of its Colorado River water."

Fleck elaborates:

Well, the problem with what Utah is doing, and in a sense, you know, we could have a blame game going on here, but essentially what the states are, are arguing is that Utah, in charging ahead with the Lake Powell Pipeline, without engaging in consultation and collaboration with the other states, is acting in a way that poses a lot of risk to the sort of seven-state collaboration that we've seen more and more over the last 20 years. There are a number of concerns that states have had for a long time about the Lake Powell Pipeline. And rather than working with the states to come up with a shared understanding of how to go forward with this pipeline, Utah has decided to just charge ahead. And the other states are saying, "Whoa, we need to put the brakes on here.

Fleck and Brodie speak at much greater length, including a discussion about the likelihood that the federal government might heed the warnings of the six other states.

The Kaibab Band of Paiute Indians raised alarms about the pipeline project in June, when the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation released the environmental impact statement for the proposed pipeline. Planetizen has been tracking the Lake Powell Pipeline Project since March 2018.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020 in KJZZ

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