SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah residents had a chance last week to weigh in on Gov. Gary Herbert’s 50-year water-use plan for the state, which drew both praise and criticism from those gathered.
The new long-term state water plan shows Utah officials are still considering an expensive Lake Powell pipeline, which is a controversial project that triggers staunch criticism from some groups, the Deseret News reported (http://bit.ly/2tyIzOb ). The plan is a blueprint to guide the state’s water use through the year 2060.
The document has 11 segments built around key subject areas that include conservation, changing climate, agricultural lands and food production, as well as the role that science and innovation could play in Utah’s water future.
Aside from concerns about continuation of the Lake Powell pipeline, the plan was also criticized for charting a course for water strategy without knowing accurate data on the consumptive use of water.
“I would caution you not to put the cart before the horse and let development drive your decisions,” said Robert Comstock, a private citizen who showed up to comment.
Rep. Joel Briscoe, D-Salt Lake City, stressed the state is hiring a consultant to look at water use numbers, and there will be an independent look at the finances behind the projects.
“Some of the things we could not specifically address are happening and are going forward,” Briscoe said. “I hope you don’t walk out of here and think the whole process is done.”
Steve Erickson, a longtime activist and member of the Governor’s Water Strategy Advisory Team, said the report marks a sea change in the state’s approach to water.
“The value in this process is that it is the beginning of the democratization of the water game in Utah,” Erickson said. “The only way this document will be of any value is if it continues to be a live document that changes as time goes forward. If it is not that, we will have gone through an exercise that will wind up being a historical anecdote that ends up getting dust on a shelf.”
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