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Paiute tribal leaders say the state's current preferred route for the Lake Powell Pipeline would cross several previously undisturbed sites with spiritual significance to the Kaibab Band.

The state prefers a route that would roughly parallel Highway 89 from Lake Powell, but that would diverge south to go around the Kaibab-Paiute Indian Reservation. An alternative route also under consideration would follow Arizona State Route 389 through the reservation.

Regardless of route, the pipeline would pump 86,249 acre-feet of water per year from Lake Powell to St. George.

The Kaibab tribe prefers the latter route. Although it cuts through their reservation, leaders say, the state's preferred route to the south would affect significant spiritual sites located outside the reservation.

"Theses are things with religious significance, that have to do with our beliefs," said Glendora Homer, one of the tribe's elders. "It would be like your church, an old chapel from hundreds of years ago. … You want to preserve the spirituality of that place. And that's the same with us."

Although there are cultural sites, such as historic dwellings, on the alternative highway route, those sites were disturbed when the highway went in, said Roland Maldonado, Kaibab tribal chairman. But the sites south of the reservation are of greater religious significance to the tribe, and they remain largely undisturbed.

"Out there, once you disturb it, you can't put the formation back again," he said. "You can't undisturb something that has never been disturbed."

It's not just the pipeline and the construction that would accompany it that worry Homer. If the pipeline were built, she said, the state would have to install access roads to service the pipe and its other components. Those kinds of roads would attract people with ATVs and other recreators to remote areas that have remained largely untouched, she said.

"Roads … would bring ATVers through our sacred sites," she said. "Those kinds of people don't always respect other people's beliefs. So a lot of times, you get vandalism, you know, writing on your petroglyphs. Because a lot of people don't understand the meaning of those petroglyphs, but they think they're awesome, so they think, 'Hey, I'll put my initials by it.' "

Homer said the tribe has attended multiple meetings throughout the years to voice its displeasure with the state's preferred route. But on Tuesday, when tribal leaders accompanied state and federal officials on a public tour of the pipeline's proposed route, she said she saw little evidence of progress. With the exception of a pumping station that was relocated after a dispute with the Bureau of Land Management, the route appeared to remain unchanged, she said, and the site tour included stops near at least one of the tribe's sacred sites.

"Sometimes I feel angry," she said, "that they're not respecting our belief system, by insisting on going around where they know we don't want them."

Eric Millis, director of the Utah Division of Water Resources, said the division chose the southern route as its preferred route several years ago. At the time, he said, the state wasn't getting a clear message from the tribe regarding whether it would permit the pipeline to be built on the reservation.

"So we thought, we'll just [avoid the reservation]," he said, "but leave the highway as an alternative as well."

It wasn't until about five years ago, he said, that the tribe began communicating to the state its preference for the highway route.

As of now, Millis said, the exact route for the pipeline is undetermined. All three proposed alternatives, he said, would be evaluated over the coming years to determine which route is best for the environment, and whether an agreement with the Kaibab tribe can be arranged, before a final route is selected.

Daniel Bulletts, the Kaibab tribe's environmental director, said it was possible that the state got mixed messages early in the process. During the tribe's first meeting regarding the Lake Powell Pipeline, Bulletts said, tribal members in attendance got the impression that the state intended to build the pipeline regardless of how the Kaibab Tribe felt about the proposal. The tone of the meeting became rude, he said, and left many members of the tribe feeling that they would be better off having as little to do with the project as possible.

As members of the tribe got to talking, Maldonado said, they eventually adopted an official position supporting the construction of the pipeline as long as the state selects a route that does not interfere with sacred sites south of the reservation.

The tribe decided that the pipeline's construction was probably inevitable, he said, and that it might be best if it adopted a position that allowed it to negotiate better terms.

Despite the tribe's official position of conditional support for the pipeline, Maldonado and Homer said they disliked the project.

"People in St. George don't respect the water," Homer said. "They've got their fountains going, all those golf courses — they don't try to have landscaping that's more like desert landscaping. They've got all these lawns down there in the hottest place. St. George doesn't take care of their water."

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