Nuclear-plant proposal draws fire

Groups protest idea of taking 24,000 acre-feet of water from Green River

Citizen and conservation groups have joined a federal agency and others in raising questions about a water proposal for a possible nuclear plant near Green River, Utah.

The groups Living Rivers and Uranium Watch said Tuesday they have joined the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Grand County Council in southeastern Utah, and some Green River ranchers and farmers in filing protests over the proposed use of 24,000 acre-feet of water for the project.

The San Juan County Water Conservancy District wants to lease water to Blue Castle Holdings Inc. Blue Castle is pursuing a nuclear power project on state trust land that Emery County has leased for an industrial park.

Utah’s Division of Water Rights is expected to hold hearings on the protests next spring at the earliest, Living Rivers and Uranium Watch say. That’s also the soonest the state is expected to consider protests against another a proposal by the Kane County Water Conservancy District involving the leasing of nearly 30,000 more acre-feet of water for the plant. An acre-foot is about 326,000 gallons of water.

The Fish and Wildlife Service says such large depletions “would impair the overall ecological function” of the Green River, harming sensitive species of fish and possibly resulting in their protection under the Endangered Species Act.

“If these species were to become listed under the ESA, water development in all areas inhabited by these species would become tightly regulated,” the agency said.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has protested the Kane County proposal because it fears Green River water may be overappropriated already, and the Blue Castle diversion could impact some current water users.

Blue Castle Holdings Chief Executive Officer Aaron Tilton said leasing water that currently is going unused would preserve it for future use after the plant is decommissioned.

He said the company is planning an onsite reservoir that could supply the plant during low flows in order to support sensitive fish species by not drawing from the Green River.

“We want to make sure that we’re being good stewards of a valuable resource,” he said.

On Oct. 5, Blue Castle Holdings announced it had reached an agreement under which the Page (Ariz.) Electric Utility could become a partial owner of the nuclear project.

Tilton said that would allow Utah water to help generate power to run pumps for a future pipeline that will deliver water from Page to the Utah communities of St. George and Kanab.


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