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Updated: 10:21 AM- HURRICANE -- Across sagebrush-covered flatlands, with red sandstone cliffs in the distance, a caravan of vehicles crawled across southern Utah and northern Arizona tracing the route of the proposed water pipeline from Lake Powell to Hurricane.
This excursion brought state and federal officials together to learn about the geography of the route and where, if the $800 million-plus pipeline is built, hydroelectric power would be generated.
Because power is part of the plan, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is taking the lead role in completing the environmental impact statement for the nearly 200-mile pipeline.
FERC project manager Jim Fargo said other federal agencies, such as the Bureau of Land Management, will work as "one team" to produce a draft EIS, which could take more than two years to complete.
The two-day field trip, which ends Tuesday at Lake Powell, precedes a string of public meetings that start Tuesday in Kanab, continue Wednesday in St. George, and Thursday in Cedar City.
Pipeline fans and foes are expected to pack the meetings. Proponents argue the project will bring vital water and power to the booming region. Opponents fear it will spawn too much growth and sap their quality of life.
Monday's tour included engineers and scientists with MWH Engineering. The state hired the firm more than a year ago for $5.6 million to conduct preliminary work for the pipeline, which would deliver 70,000 acre-feet of water to Washington County, 20,000 acre-feet to Iron County and 10,000 acre-feet to Kane County.
Larry Anderson, retired director of the Utah Division of Water Resources, which would build the pipeline, said the engineering firm also would help gather information about the project's impact to be included with the state's final application to FERC.
The proposed 69-inch-diameter steel pipe, which would be buried for the entire length of the project, would at times parallel U.S. 89, Arizona Route 389, Utah Route 59 and a utility corridor now sprouting 500,000-volt power lines from Glen Canyon Dam and the Navajo Generating Station near Page, Ariz.
Along the way, seven hydroelectric sites are planned to churn the pipeline's flowing water into electricity.
During a stop Monday at the headquarters of the Kaibab Band of the Paiute Tribe at Pipe Springs, Ariz., tribal Chairwoman Ona Segundo read a statement noting the tribe has yet to decide whether to support the project.
Although the proposed route does not cross the reservation, Segundo said the tribe wants more information before taking a stand.