The Lake Powell Pipeline will waste at least $3 billion of Utah taxpayer money that will never be repaid, while burdening Washington and Kane County residents with massive increases in water rates, impact fees and property taxes. The lobbyists behind the Lake Powell Pipeline have led a campaign to hide these costs and the impacts to local ratepayers and taxpayers across Utah.
The Hidden $3.2 Billion Price Tag of the Lake Powell Pipeline
The Lake Powell Pipeline is the largest new spending proposal in the State of Utah. In spite of repeated requests from the public to know the full cost of the unnecessary Pipeline, project spending advocates refuse to provide an updated cost estimate for the Lake Powell Pipeline. In response to one request by the federal government, the state agency proposing $3 billion in new spending claimed it had until 90 days before construction started to reveal its payment plan for the pipeline.1 That was the Utah Division of Water Resources. Most suspect the Division’s refusal to be transparent stems from these lobbyists’ desire to hide the project cost from the public.
An analysis of a similar pipeline constructed in 2016 by Colorado Springs, the Southern Delivery System, reveals that Lake Powell Pipeline lobbyists are hiding a massive $3.2 billion price tag from the public. This is because the Lake Powell Pipeline is substantially larger than the Southern Delivery System and requires far more infrastructure.
A Comparison of Two Pipelines
The Southern Delivery System, or SDS, is an $825 million water project in Colorado that is much smaller in scope and size than the Lake Powell Pipeline.2 The Lake Powell Pipeline is much longer and needs to pump more water up a greater elevation. Furthermore, since the Lake Powell Pipeline has a complicated hydropower system costing an additional $700 million3 that the SDS does not have, the Lake Powell Pipeline will cost much more than the lobbyists are telling the public.
The 50 miles of pipe for the SDS cost a total of $624 million to construct, factoring to a cost of $12.48 million per mile.4 At 140 miles long, the Lake Powell Pipeline will cost at least $1.75 billion for pipe components alone, assuming no other engineering features.
The SDS conveys approximately 56,000 acre-feet of water annually, while the Lake Powell Pipeline is designed to carry 86,000 acre-feet of water annually.
VERTICAL ELEVATION OF PUMPED WATER
The SDS has a 1,500 ft. rise in elevation, while the Lake Powell Pipeline has a 2,200-foot elevation gain.
NUMBER OF WATER PUMPING STATIONS
The SDS includes 3 water-pumping stations, each built at a cost of $25.3 million.5 The Lake Powell Pipeline will include 5 pump stations, totaling at least $126.7 million.6
NUMBER OF HYDRO STATIONS
The Lake Powell Pipeline will include 6 hydropower-generating stations7, while the SDS did not include any hydropower generating stations. The hydropower components of the Lake Powell Pipeline will cost at least $742 million.
Recently imposed tariffs by the federal government will also increase the cost of the Lake Powell Pipeline. New tariffs on construction materials like steel will add approximately 6.6% to Lake Powell Pipeline construction costs.8 This will increase the cost by $137.07 million, bringing the updated total to at least $2.88 billion.
With Lake Powell Pipeline construction slated to begin in 2021, adjusting for inflation from 2015 dollars adds an additional $361.69 million, bringing the total construction costs for the Lake Powell Pipeline to at least $3.24 billion in 2021 dollars.
With a price tag like this, it’s no wonder Lake Powell Pipeline lobbyists have done everything they can to keep the public in the dark. They are hiding the true cost of the Pipeline in order to trick Utah taxpayers into funding a disastrous $3.2 billion public spending project.
Pumped Storage Proposal
Another alternative scenario for this project will cost even more money – the Pumped Storage Alternative. This complicated array of additional small reservoirs, hydropower pumps, penstocks and generators will raise the price tag by an additional $280 million bringing the total cost to $3.52 billion. 9
- UDWRe Response to FERC August 11, 2017 Additional Information Request Schedule A
- Lake Powell Pipeline Project, Final Study Report 10, April 2016 – Appendix B
- Colorado Springs Utilities 2015 Southern Delivery System Monitoring Report, Pg. 2 https://coloradosprings.gov/sites/default/files/16-03_2015_sds_monitoring_report_update_4-6-16.pdf
- Associated General Contractors of America, Producer Price Index for Construction Inputs, October 2018 https://www.agc.org/news/2018/11/09/construction-bid-prices-accelerate-october-contractors%E2%80%99-costs-rise-faster-higher , https://www.agc.org/learn/construction-data/construction-data-producer-prices-and-employment-costs
- Lake Powell Pipeline Project Draft Plan of Development November 2018