Written by Dallas Hyland

In late October, Citizens for Dixie’s Future hosted a water sustainability workshop with help from a generous grant from the outdoor clothing company Patagonia. 

Around fifty people were in attendance including citizens, business owners, water experts of varying degrees, and a handful of candidates from the upcoming elections. Conspicuously absent from the days event however were any of St. George City’s council members, including the Mayor, as well as any county commissioners or representatives from the Washington County Water Conservancy District. All of whom determine water policy.

Council member Michele Randall commented on Facebook that perhaps the community needs to understand that her job as a council member is only part time and that she has another job to do. While that may be true, it seems a somewhat obtuse thing to assert given that she ran for the job, won it, and now plays an active part in determining some of the fate of the citizens she serves. I am sure that many of the other people in attendance from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. that day had pressing commitments as well. They just found that the most pressing one was being as educated as possible about the water issues we as a community face. 

More disconcerting however, was not only the WCWCD’s absence, but that they inadvertently discouraged members of the Community Integrated Resource Planning Advisory Committee (CIRPAC), which comprises roughly thirty prominent members of the community, from attending. 

One such member of CIRPAC, Dick Kohler, was in attendance and brought a lot of insight to the workshop. He likely gained a lot too. He said he did not understand why the Conservancy was averse to attending the event.

A little history may help to understand that.

Barbara Hjelle of the WCWCD, upon request to attend the event, told CDF that they would not attend anything hosted by CDF because they have issue with some numbers being presented on CDF’s website stating that the WCWCD felt they were misleading to the public. CDF stated that they pulled the very numbers in question from the WCWCD’s Lake Powell Pipeline report. I.E. their own numbers. It’s fair to say a disagreement exists but nothing that should preclude the WCWCD from attending. 

Karry Rathje of the WCWCD said that an email was sent out to members of CIRPAC informing them of the workshop and letting them know the Conservancy would not be in attendance. She repeatedly stated that the WCWCD would not collaborate with CDF on anything because of their open opposition to the LPP. It was as though she was trying to give the right answer to the wrong question. No one said the WCWCD needed to collaborate. Just attend and contribute their own input. Furthermore, CDF was not teaching the workshop. They were hosting it. Any ill feelings between the District and CDF was moot as the workshop was being taught by a third, unbiased party.

Why such an email was sent out is curious as all of the members were directly invited by CDF. The WCWCD’s email stated that CDF requested it to send out the redundant invitation. CDF says it did not.

This taken into account with one more small caveat, why then in the WCWCD’s forwarding of CDF’s invitation to members of CIRPAC, did it not include CDF, a member of CIRPAC? Perhaps because it was redundant? They were hosting the event, why would they need a duplicate invitation right?

Or perhaps because there was a subtle motive at play. Not wanting to come right out and tell people not to attend, they instead sent an email looking like they are at least being forthright while trying to control the message, excluding of course CDF, and make discrediting assertions about CDF while assuring all that their own numbers are absolutely correct. A fact mind you, under severe scrutiny as well by many organizations other than their own, such as CDF, and the Utah Rivers Council. Even the keynote speaker found some of their numbers questionable.

Furthermore, the WCWCD’s email states that they were not consulted about the event. This simply is not true. 

The email states: “This workshop has been developed and planned without input from the district or, to our knowledge, any other state or local water manager.” 

Their lack of input was a willing lack thereof. They were asked for it. More than once.

And, not only was the keynote speaker a water manager, a fact the WCWCD knew, but CDF said they asked the WCWCD to not only attend and participate, but to also give a short presentation on the water situation to help get everyone up to speed. They were asked how they would like to participate. To say they were not consulted is not misleading, it is an outright lie. If this is the case, the WCWCD intentionally misled members of CIRPAC in that email.

This cannot be understated. If the WCWCD will make efforts to mislead its own advisory committee it begs the questions of not only why, but who else have they misled or will mislead in the future?

In an email to CDF, Rathje said, “We’re familiar with Tom Ash’s work and think a properly designed water budgeting program has great merit. We’re happy CDF is taking a proactive lead on this effort.”

Tom Ash was the key note speaker at the event and was brought specifically because he was the architect of the first water rate structure in California for the Irvine Ranch Water District which the WCWCD says they would like to emulate.

So why the hell didn’t they show up? Why the intentionally contradicting statements and misleading email?

When I spoke to Rathje after the event, she was clear that they opposed anything CDF was doing because CDF opposes the Lake Powell Pipeline.

Hjelle told CDF she thought they could be critical in educating the public about water issues. Ironically, Ash made the case that with regards to water education, water managers such as those of the WCWCD, the County Commissioners, and all who set policy need to be educated first. 

Apparently, the WCWCD and the leaders of Washington County feel they already know everything they need to know to aggressively push the Lake Powell Pipeline agenda forward despite several mitigating factors, not the least of which being the fact that the source they wish to draw from, the Colorado River, is irrefutably over allocated. And as anyone who has attended one of their meetings including the ones with the “not an advocate but an analyst Jeremy Aguero” can attest, taking questions or comments is not their strong suit. It’s as if they do not want a dialogue at all especially one that disagrees with them or that they cannot manage. (Incidentally, Aguero was paid tens of thousands of dollars for his used car salesman pitch. Sources say the District now regrets bringing him in but your tax dollars paid his bill.)

Basically, your leaders do not want to hear anything from anyone who does not align with their predisposed ideas about your future. Or so it appears. But make no mistake, they want your money and your strict obedience without question.

John Stuart Mill said that a man who cannot argue for the inverse of his position knows little of his own.

An apropos sentiment for the leaders who were too busy, or too predisposed about your future, to attend what turned out to be an informative and proactive event with you, the citizen’s, best interest at heart. The fact that they did not, for whatever reason, and that they engaged on some level to influence or prevent people from attending, is very telling of the integrity of their motives.

See you out there.

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Dallas Hyland is a professional technical writer, freelance writer and journalist, award-winning photographer, and documentary filmmaker. As a senior writer and editor-at-large at The Independent, Hyland’s investigative journalism, opinion columns, and photo essays have ranged in topics from local political and environmental issues to drug trafficking in Utah. He has also worked the international front, covering issues such as human trafficking in Colombia. His photography and film work has received recognition as well as a few modest awards and in 2015, he was a finalist for the Mark of Excellence Award from the Society of Professional Journalists. Based in southern Utah, he works tirelessly at his passion for getting after the truth and occasionally telling a good story. On his rare off-days, he can be found with his family and friends exploring the pristine outdoors of Utah and beyond.