Letter to the editor: Massive water rights application for Utah nuclear power plant threatens survival of endangered fish
The Center for Biological Diversity submitted a protest of water right applications filed by the Kane County Water Conservancy that would be used to facilitate the development of a nuclear power plant at Green River. The center's protest, filed with the Utah State Engineer, raises concerns about the lack of information provided to the public about the use of 29,600 acre-feet of water, and how the water diversion will be consistent with the need to protect river flows and habitat conditions critical for the survival of imperiled plants and animals in the vicinity of the power plant's footprint, including endangered fish.
The water conservancy filed the application on behalf of the Transition Power Development, pursuant to a water rights lease agreement between the entities. The power company intends to construct the Blue Castle Project nuclear power plant just outside of the town of Green River. Nuclear power plants require immense amounts of water for cooling the reactor and buildings and for emergencies. It is believed this plant will use more than 1.1 million gallons of water per minute for once-through cooling.
The Green and Colorado rivers are critical for the survival of the Colorado pikeminnow, humpback chub, bonytail and razorback sucker, all listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act - the highest level of imperilment. The water application provides sparse details about the design and features of the proposed plant. We know from experiences at other such plants that the voluminous water intakes trap and kill fish and other aquatic life. And, the intake of such large quantities of water plus the subsequent discharge of heated water can further harm those species and habitats.
Other species will also potentially be hurt, including the roundtail chub, blueheaded sucker and flannelmouth sucker, all of which are critically imperiled and receiving special management under conservation agreements between the state and federal governments in order to preclude the need to list them under the Endangered Species Act.
At the site of the proposed nuclear power plant and cooling pond, three extremely rare plant species are found: the San Rafael cactus, Maguire's daisy, and Jones's cycladenia. All are protected under the Endangered Species Act. The needs of federally and state protected wildlife and plant species and the maintenance of the natural conditions of their habitats imposes a significant beneficial use that is required to be protected under Utah code.