My Colorado River policy attention time is a finite resource, and I admit I’ve not paid terribly close attention to Utah’s Lake Powell Pipeline proposal. My reasoning has been that it’s likely so expensive relative to the water it would provide that, with the end of big federal subsidies, Utah’s eventually going to wake up and say, “Wait, what? We’ll have to pay how much?” Simply using less water is likely to be a lot cheaper, and the folks in Washington County clearly have that option available. My public policy attention triage strategy is essentially “Don’t waste a lot of time on this one, it’s likely to go away soon.”
I’ve been thinking that for a while. It hasn’t gone away.
Emma Penrod has an excellent piece in the latest High Country News exploring what she calls the “funding quagmire”, including some really helpful public journalism exposing previously hidden efforts to government project backers to try to make the project look as cheap as possible:
But as state and local officials wrangle over the specifics of who might eventually foot the bill, there’s still a chance that Washington County residents could avoid paying it. Under Utah’s Lake Powell Pipeline Development Act, it’s the state — not the county — that will end up doing so, should Washington County’s efforts to pay fall short.
Is that unfair? Washington County Water District Manager Thompson doesn’t think so. Growth in Salt Lake City was once made possible by large, expensive water projects funded by a nationwide tax base. If Utah writ large has to raise taxes to pay off multimillion-dollar budget deficits, then so be it, he says. In his mind, it’s Washington County’s turn.