This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

No matter how pure the water that will flow to the Zion View Mountain Estates when its $9.3 million water system gets built — with millions in government loans — the story of how the project came together still stinks.

As pieced together in an article in Sunday's Salt Lake Tribune, the transformation of the cluster of homes, cabins, and campsites overlooking Zion National Park in southwestern Utah from a rustic hideaway to a subdivision with water, electric and telephone service bears all the signs of a powerful individual throwing his weight around to boost the local tax base. All while playing fast and loose with the concept of private property rights that such politicians generally hold dear.

Mike Noel is the executive director of the Kane County Water Conservancy District and a member of the Utah House of Representatives. Not only a member, but chairman of the House Public Utilities Committee and a member of the Natural Resources and Environment Committee.

Because he wears all those hats, Noel is in a unique position to, first, understand all the levers that can be pulled to win government funding for any kind of water project and, perhaps more importantly, to stare down anyone who suggests that his proposals aren't the best use of those funds.

Zion View sprang up some years ago as a deliberately unimproved — "rustic," to those who love it that way — place for summer-time refugees, mostly from Las Vegas, to own a piece of mountain land. It had no municipal water service, only tanks to store water that was hauled in. When that set-up was ruled a violation of federal safe drinking water laws by the Utah Division of Drinking Water, Noel's water district stepped in to offer its services.

The fact that many property owners did not want either the service or the bills that would follow didn't seem to faze Noel at all. He fought off protests and lawsuits and successfully pressed two state panels — the Permanent Community Impact Fund Board and the Utah Drinking Water Board — for large loans, with interest rates ranging from zero to 4.71 percent.

The loans came through, even though the rules — apparently more of a guideline — are supposed to restrict such funds to properties that are a primary residence, in the case of one loan program, or, in the case of another program, somehow damaged by mining activities on federal land. None of that applies in Zion View.

All of this amounts to a conflict of interest so large that even Utah legislators should be able to see it.

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