Friday, September 12, 2008

Trek begins: Utah's Top Water Official Says Pipeline "Could be Eliminated."

The Lake Powell Pipeline Trek kicked off with a subtle but surprising bang on Thursday. Utah Division of Water Resources Director, Dennis Strong, spoke with Glen Canyon Dam to his back on a perfect September day. He said that if the communities of Washington County changed their landscape planting and watering ordinances, the Pipeline could be "delayed or eliminated."

Strong said that reducing outside watering is a decision that can and should be made by city councils. Washington County's communities could do this and free up enough water for future residents. This would eliminate the need for cities to sign water contracts for the Pipeline.

Strong pointed at me when acknowledging that many people in Washington County have recently pointed out that significant local water exists to support future growth. I took his gesture as a reference to the scores of people who have made this point in public meetings and letters-to-the-editor. His acknowledgment surprised me because of its context at the beginning of our trek to raise awareness and create dialoge about the controversial project.

Because the trek is about offering both pro-pipeline and pro-pipeline alternative viewpoints, Richard Ingebretsen, a physician and physics professor at the University of Utah who Chairs the Glen Canyon Institute also spoke. He pointed out that an average of 30,000 dump truck loads of sediment is added to Lake Powell every day. St. George will last longer than Lake Powell due to this sedimentation, so depending on it as a water source needs to be considered very, very carefully.

It is clear that the earth's temperature is rising, he explained, regardless of the cause. Every reputable climatologist suggests that future flows of the Colorado River will decline compared to historical flows. This means that sediment trapped in tributaries will more quickly fill the main canyon if and when reservoir levels go lower over time. So not only is the supply of water from Lake Powell suspect, the future of the reservoir itself is seriously in question.

Scott Hirschi and I jump on our bikes in a few hours to begin the muscle-powered trek to the west. Tune in later today for a report from the field.

What's next with the Pipeline Trek?

Check out KCSG-TV's coverage of the trek today at 5 and 9.

If you want to hear Paul Van Dam and Mike Noel debate the pipeline's merits, be at the Kane County Library in Kanab at 7 p.m. this Saturday.

My opponent, Alan Gardner, and I will be speaking about Vision Dixie, Sprawl and the Pipeline where the Honeymoon Trail meets the top of the Hurricane Cliffs at 6:30 p.m. on Monday (it's a great family night event, see the attached file for directions).

Ron Thompson, Washington County Water District Manager and Brooks Pace, Candidate for the Utah Senate, will debate the pipeline's merits in the Hurricane City Park, 200 North Main, at 6:30 on Tuesday night

Save the Date: September 20th at 4 or 6 p.m. (two showings), Join in the Trek's Grand Finale including photos, video and stories from the trek at the Dixie State College Gardner (Student) Center Ballroom and a way to support Lin's County Commission Campaign.

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