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Lake Powell Quagga Mussels Cause Concern for Pipeline

March 21
15:46 2014

Finding quagga mussels in Lake Powell has caused a stir among water-concerned individuals and organizations in Utah watching the Lake Powell Pipeline Project.

Lake Powell Pipeline logoThe Lake Powell Pipeline was authorized by the Utah State Legislature in 2006 to meet water demands of southwestern Utah. The pipeline will take water from Lake Powell and transport it to Washington, Kane and Iron Counties. Water diverted into the pipeline will be part of Utah’s Upper Colorado River Compact allocation. The state will build the project and the costs will be repaid by district water sales.

With the threat of quagga mussels invading the pipeline, some people are concerned about contamination of the water supply.

Drinking water made of ground up mussels and mussel insecticide – might be delicious. Don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it.”–comment on the St. George News

A statement by the Washington County Water Conservancy District holds that the mussels will not stop the pipeline project. Their statement reads:

“Utah Division of Wildlife Resources has positively identified quagga mussels in Lake Powell. Quagga mussels are an invasive species that has spread rapidly throughout the United States and can impact water supply infrastructure, including intakes and pipelines, as well as water quality and recreation.

This discovery does not jeopardize the Lake Powell Pipeline, a State of Utah project that will transport approximately 82,000 acre feet of water from Lake Powell to water users in Washington and Kane Counties via a 138-mile underground pipeline.

There are many chemicals and other approaches that have proven effective at controlling mussels in pipelines. Plans to prevent the infestation from spreading to other water bodies, including Sand Hollow and Quail Creek Reservoirs, will be included in the Lake Powell Pipeline plan.

The Lake Powell Pipeline is currently nearing the completion of several years of environmental studies. A preliminary record of decision is expected in 2016 and a final design in 2018. Construction is expected to commence around 2020.

Project developers expect additional control methods will be available when the Lake Powell Pipeline commences construction since research on quagga mussels is ongoing.

The State of Utah and water districts in Washington and Kane counties remain committed to providing a safe, reliable water supply for its growing populations.”–Washington County Conservancy District

Groups opposed to the pipeline project, incuding Citizens for Dixie, are adding quagga mussels to their list of objections to the project. The main objection to the pipeline is the cost of what some believe is an unnecessary project.

According to the Citizens for Dixie website since 2006, the Pipeline price has increased dramatically. Some estimates exceed $2 billion.

“Non-value added increases in housing costs will hurt our economy. Can the residents of Washington County afford this?”–Citizens for Dixie

Citizens for Dixie feel that bad data has been used to justify the Pipeline. They claim the estimate is artificially high with unrealistic population forecasts, outdated water use data and unreasonably low estimates of future water conservation.

Despite opposition, plans for the Lake Powell Pipeline and Lake Powell Mussels continue.

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