Economists: Lake Powell pipeline could leave state owing billions

Posted at 5:54 PM, Sep 21, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-21 19:54:55-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- A simple accounting error may leave state taxpayers with a $2 billion bill.

That’s the word from a group of economists at the University of Utah, BYU and Utah State University who signed on to a paper estimating the long-term cost for building the Lake Powell Pipeline.

University of Utah Economist Gabriel Lozada says the simplest mistake made by the local water districts was in not figuring the long-term interest payments along with the actual project cost.

“They set things up in such a way that they didn't reimburse the state of Utah for the interest payments on the bonds that the state would have to issue for the pipeline,” Lozada said.

The estimated cost of the project is between $1.4 billion and $1.8 billion, and the repayment would take 50 years.

At 4 percent interest, the economists say the interest adds up to more than the cost of the project itself.

The Utah Division of Water Resources declined an interview but provided a written statement to FOX 13:

“The Utah Division of Water Resources welcomes feedback during this process. We have not seen the analysis behind the recent claims. It would be premature to comment until we have a chance to review the analysis and coordinate with its authors.”