Early estimates of the price tag for building a 174-mile-long pipeline to carry water from Lake Powell to St. George were way off. In 2005, the pipeline was estimated at $585 million. Today, the projected cost is $1.1 billion. The near doubling of the estimate in three years makes the warnings of pipeline critics seem less like crying wolf. Citizens for Dixie’s Future notes the new estimate still doesn’t include the cost of servicing construction bonds, which the group says could push the pipeline into multiple billions. Part of the estimated cost is for building hydroelectric plants along the pipeline—plants that won’t come close to generating the amount of electricity needed to pump water uphill to St. George in the first place.
The Utah Supreme Court has solidified the public’s right to use the state’s rivers, even when those rivers pass through private property. The right to recreate on Utah waterways is long established. Utah’s high court had to decide if rafters and fisherman committed trespassing when they touched privately owned river bottoms. The case began when floaters on the Weber River in 2000, who briefly left their raft to move a fence strung across the river, were cited by the sheriff for trespassing. A lower court ruled against the family, saying they could only touch the river bottom incidentally; the Supreme Court wrote that was ridiculous: “The public has a right to float, hunt and fish,” the court wrote, which is practically impossible, “without touching the water’s bed.”
House Republicans recently tried kissing and making up after an intra-party ethics fight went public with traded allegations of bribery and intern groping. Hopefully, party moderates won’t let the spat be swept under the rug so easily. Conservative House Speaker Greg Curtis met recently with moderate caucus head Rep. Sheryl Allen in an effort to move Republican spats off the front pages. But a return to business as usual isn’t in the interest of the public, or the Republican Party. Uncovering dirty dealings in the GOP’s back room—or behind the closed doors of members’ Capitol offices—would be messy. But ultimately this fight between moderates and conservatives is about Utah’s future political direction. Airing out the GOP’s laundry could be cleansing.