Monday, October 13, 2008


Urquhart Joins Powell Pipeline Liar's Club

(Published by The Salt Lake Tribune Oct 2008)

Do you remember the Liar’s Club, a TV game show that appeared in several different incarnations over the years? If so, and you’re feeling a bit nostalgic, you might want to get tuned-in to politics in Washington County. We’ve got our own incarnation of the show going on, known locally as the Lake Powell Pipeline Liar’s Club.

Recently, Rep. Steve Urquhart of St. George joined the club, stating in a local magazine that “The residents in Southern Utah aren’t going to have to take this on by themselves. The state will pay for a big chunk of this pipeline.”

Either Urquhart had a case of temporary amnesia or he wasn’t paying attention in 2006 when he voted for legislation authorizing the pipeline project. The Lake Powell Pipeline Organization created by the legislation clearly states on its website: “ALL costs of the project will then be repaid by the three subscribing water districts…..through a balance of impact fees, property taxes and fees.”

It isn’t a shock to anyone who follows Washington County politics that Urquhart—now running for state Senate—is a member of the club. Several of Urquhart’s political associates—including all three members of the Washington County Commission—are already members, having previously made their own misleading statements concerning the pipeline, as in the following examples:

“The pipeline will only cost 500 million dollars.” That’s not even close to true. The state recently re-estimated construction costs, concluding it would require nearly 1 billion dollars to build the pipeline and nearly another billion in interest payments to finance it. The state will issue bonds to build it—in essence take out a mortgage for 30 or 40 years—and the entire 2 billion dollars of cost—principal and interest—will be repaid by the local water districts. And is there anyone who really believes the current 2 billion dollar estimate is high enough when it’s already doubled in just the past year?

“The pipeline will be a redundant water supply.” That’s impossible when you understand that the only way to pay for the pipeline is through fees paid by newcomers who will move to Washington County and consume the pipeline water. To add insult to injury, if newcomers fail to come in sufficient numbers the residents of southern Utah will be stuck with the balance of the 2 billion dollar bill.

“We have to build it because they are coming.” This is the biggest scam of all. The truth is that Washington County will certainly run out of water for newcomers at some point and they will have to stop coming. Nobody is stupid enough to come if there isn’t sufficient access to water. With finite water supplies the question is when southern Utah shuts off the growth, not if they shut off the growth. And there are only two possible growth scenarios. Washington County officials can manage growth within the existing water supplies—enough for 500,000 people if reasonable conservation practices are put in place—or they can spend 2 billion dollars to build a pipeline that will accommodate 785,000 people.

Personally, I think more than tripling the current Washington County population to 500,000 is more than enough and we ought to forget about the pipeline. Spending 2 billion dollars to pack 785,000 people into the county would make it a pretty lousy place to live.

I’ve been a pretty reliable Republican voter over the years but this time around in local elections I’m going against my party where necessary and voting for honesty on the pipeline. I hope many of my neighbors in Washington County will do the same.

I also hope that many of you from around the state who enjoy visiting Washington County and have friends and relatives living here will encourage them to do the same. It might help preserve Washington County as both a great place to live and to visit.

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