W.House Stifled Reporting On Russian Election Interference

A senior US intelligence official said the White House ordered him to stop reporting on Russian election interference and highlight Chinese and Iran meddling instead, according to a whistleblower complaint revealed Wednesday.

Offering explosive evidence to support Democratic allegations that President Donald Trump has manipulated intelligence to support his reelection effort, Department of Homeland Security analyst Brian Murphy said he was told by acting DHS chief Chad Wolf that assessments on the Russian threat made Trump “look bad.”

Wolf told him the order to stifle his analyses “specifically originated from White House National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien,” a top Trump aide, Murphy alleged in the complaint.

Murphy, a senior official in DHS’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis, said he refused to censor his reporting on Russians and on the domestic white supremacist threat, “as doing so would put the country in substantial and specific danger.”

In retaliation, he said he was demoted last month.

The complaint, released by the Democrat-led House Intelligence Committee, came after months of reports that the White House was downplaying the Russian election threat, despite what US intelligence chiefs have said was massive interference in the 2016 campaign that brought Trump to power.

In a strangely worded and widely criticized official statement on election interference on August 7, the Directorate of National Intelligence focused on what it said was active interference by China and Iran, with China opposed to Trump.

Russia is also interfering against Biden and an anti-Russia “establishment,” it said, avoiding suggestions that, as in 2016, Moscow favors Trump.

DHS rejected the allegations of intelligence manipulation and retaliation against Murphy.

“We flatly deny that there is any truth to the merits of Mr. Murphy’s claim,” said department spokesperson Alexei Woltornist.

“DHS is working to address all threats to the homeland regardless of ideology,” Woltornist added.

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf Photo: AFP / MANDEL NGAN

The White House has denied manipulating intelligence to support Trump’s policies and election, but also repeatedly condemns what it labels an alleged anti-Trump “deep state” in the intelligence community.

But Murphy’s complaint said that, over 2018-2020, he witnessed “a repeated pattern of abuse of authority, attempted censorship of intelligence analysis and improper administration of an intelligence program related to Russian efforts to influence and undermine United States interests.”

In early 2019, he says then-DHS secretary Kirstjen Nielsen in testimony to Congress knowingly vastly exaggerated the threat of terrorists entering the country from Mexico, in order to support Trump’s plan for a wall on the southern border.

Despite being told that at best three potential terrorists had tried to cross from Mexico, Nielsen, he said, told Congress the number was 3,755.

Likewise, he said, in order to support Trump’s anti-migrant policies, acting deputy DHS secretary Ken Cuccinelli demanded changes to intelligence reports on corruption and violence in Central America that might be used to bolster asylum claims.

Cuccinelli, Murphy said, also demanded the names of “deep state intelligence analysts” who wrote the reports.

On Russia, Murphy said that both

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Club spotlight: Poway Valley Garden Club finding ways to blossom amid pandemic

The Poway Valley Garden Club presidents said the club is finding ways to meet up and share members’ love of gardening despite COVID-19 restrictions.

Carolyn Larsen and Stephanie Persson took over as co-presidents in June.

The club was founded in 1961 and works to promote gardening within the community, as well as to improve and beautify the community, Larsen said. It also is “majorly into education,” she added.

“It’s probably one of the most active garden clubs in the community,” Larsen said.

Health restrictions have changed club meetings, but the members are making the effort to stay social and involved. The club’s monthly meetings have transitioned to Zoom, including classes and guest speakers, Larsen said.

She said an example is the club holding an online gardening class for members via Zoom with a PowerPoint presentation. The following day, a club member opened her home garden to small groups of four to six people at a time, so club members could visit and see the garden. She did this for a week, Larsen said. The club members received clippings from the member’s garden and were able to have a hands-on mini-class, Persson added.

“We’re trying to navigate this pandemic the best we can,” Persson said.

While the club’s monthly, in-person meetings are typically three hours long, Larsen and Persson said people cannot sit in front of a computer screen for that long, so the Zoom meetings are about 1 ½ hours, with 30 minutes of club business and an hour for the guest speaker.

The club has 127 members, something Larsen and Persson said they find encouraging.

“We’re encouraged by the club being alive, and thriving, and having new members join during a pandemic,” Persson said.

It has grown in membership over the past 10 years, Larsen said. She attributes the growth to how active the club is and people wanting to be involved with that activity.

Larsen and Persson said their motto for the club this year is “Preservation, Persistence and Possibility.” This reflects their desire to preserve the club’s beautification and community service projects, persist with providing interesting and educational topics and outings, and create endless possibilities for the club and the local community, they said.

The club is involved with many projects around the community, including maintaining several gardens at Old Poway Park. These are the gardens outside Templars Hall, the orchard, the butterfly garden, the Nelson House flower garden and volunteer appreciation garden. It also maintains the Lake Poway Rose Garden.

Members also work hands-on with residents of Cadence at Poway Gardens, a memory care community in Poway. On the fourth Friday of each month, members engage in horticultural activities with residents with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia.

Some club members are also involved with the Poway Valley Youth Garden Club, which supports several local school gardens and works with students.

The club holds several fundraisers every year, in order to raise money for scholarships and donate to Penny for Pines, which replants trees in

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Chicago cannot lose the Palmer House, now boarded up and in deep financial trouble

The great Chicago Tribune critic Claudia Cassidy lived at the Drake Hotel. Touring Broadway celebrities would dine with Sun-Times columnist Irv Kupcinet at the Pump Room at the Ambassador East. And at the Palmer House’s famed Empire Room, a 250-seat cabaret venue with an elegance like no other, Phyllis Diller told jokes and early-career stars like Liberace, Maurice Chevalier, Carol Channing and Tony Bennett were launched.

a sign on the side of a building: Owner of the Palmer House Hilton has been sued for $338 million in missed loan payments, in the largest Chicago foreclosure case to emerge from the coronavirus pandemic, Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020.

© E. Jason Wambsgans / Chicago Tribune/Chicago Tribune/TNS
Owner of the Palmer House Hilton has been sued for $338 million in missed loan payments, in the largest Chicago foreclosure case to emerge from the coronavirus pandemic, Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020.

a close up of a train station: The entrance of the Palmer House Hilton stands empty on Monroe Street on Sept. 8.

© E. Jason Wambsgans / Chicago Tribune/Chicago Tribune/TNS
The entrance of the Palmer House Hilton stands empty on Monroe Street on Sept. 8.

All of that is to say that Chicago’s historic hotels are joined at the hip with our historic and spectacular tradition of live entertainment.

All of that is to say further that, for this writer, seeing boards over the entrance to the Palmer House Hotel, officially the Palmer House Hilton, is every bit as painful as seeing them over the Art Institute of Chicago, or the Picasso statue or Buckingham Fountain.

To lose this hotel would be a loss of unfathomable proportions. And there is a real danger of the unthinkable happening.

As the Tribune’s Ryan Ori reported Aug. 31, the owner of the Palmer House, Thor Equities, has been hit with a foreclosure suit alleging unpaid mortgage payments totaling nearly $338 million. Worse, the hotel is now, in real estate parlance, underwater, being as its current valuation is only $305 million, down from $560 million as recently as 2018.

For a stunning example of how much Chicago’s Loop is losing to the absence of tourists and conventioneers, just consider the size and speed of that drop in valuation.

It’s breathtaking.

That word that could also be used to describe the lobby of the Palmer House, a grand riot of columns, murals, candelabras and a sense of Saturday night urban grandeur that once was the headquarters for the election campaign of Grover Cleveland and, over the years, has hosted enough weddings and conventions to keep half the Loop in business.

The Palmer House long employed a resident historian, Ken Price, who led hundreds of tours to the backstage areas of the Empire Room, where a lucky guests could see stagebills and headshots of the greats who performed there, all lovingly preserved. Price’s tour was about the most fun I ever had in the Loop. And lots of out-of-towners, especially show-business types, felt the same way.

Michael Riedel, the New York radio personality and longtime Broadway columnist, told me this week of his excitement of staying in “the biggest suite I had ever seen” while covering an out-of-town tryout. And, of course, he took Price’s tour. Chris Baum, a longtime concierge at the Langham Chicago Hotel, told me he sent many a guest to experience the history of the Empire Room.


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This KitchenCalc from Calculated Industries Makes Everything I Do in the Kitchen Easier

This is Highly Recommend, a column dedicated to what people in the food industry are obsessed with eating, drinking, and buying right now.

A little bit of control in the kitchen goes a long way. Anyone in the business will tell you that a day that goes by without even a minor problem is a rarity—so savor it while it lasts. Chefs and bakers constantly strive for consistency, and many of us are classic type-A personalities: organized multitaskers who strongly dislike inefficiency—or, say, literally anything that does not go exactly as planned. This is precisely why I love KitchenCalc (Models 8300 and 8305) from Calculated Industries. It gets me.

Calculators are, by nature, dependable. That’s why we love them! Push buttons: get answers. Repeat. In a kitchen calculators are used to adjust recipes to consistent units of measurement. You know the (dreaded) drill: cups into milliliters, pounds into grams, and tablespoons into fluid ounces. It can be maddening for even the most proficient among us; absolutely no one wants to be converting units of measurement on the fly, especially when your hands are covered in flour and you just realized the sauce on the stovetop hasn’t been stirred in ages.

The KitchenCalc converts every common food preparation measurement, be it liquid or dry. That means volume units (think teaspoons, cups, centiliters, gallons) and weight units (dry ounces, grams, kilos, pounds). It even converts temperatures and scales the number of servings, which means that the days of multiplying each ingredient from your go-to recipe are over. Hello, devoted meal preppers!

It displays information in whatever style works best for you, including decimals, fractions, and metric. It completes 146 different conversions, and it has a built-in timer (!). It’s even great for coffee perfectionists—calculate your brewing ratio and set a timer for steeping in just a couple taps. French press purists, rejoice!

The KitchenCalc comes in two sizes, handheld and countertop, and they both have a clear protective case to brush off inevitable splashes and spills. Does this make it the proud pocket-protector-wearing nerd of the calculator world? Yes! Does it help? It does! The handheld model is small enough to nestle in with the nonperishables on my pantry shelves; it’s always there when I need it, tucked between the canned tomatoes and jars of chile crisp.

Cooking can be unpredictable. Plans change, problems arise. This little machine can help you get some predictability back.

Ryan McCarthy is a professional chef and baker who lives in Providence, RI, and you can follow his cooking adventures on Instagram (@ryguymcc).

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Calculated Industries KitchenCalc

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Montgomery column: Designing a garden – Lifestyle – The Columbus Dispatch

“I never before knew the full value of trees. My house is entirely embosomed in high plane-trees, with good grass below; and under them I breakfast, dine, write, read, and receive my company”
– Thomas Jefferson, 1793

Due to staying home with the pandemic the past six months, I have done some major work in the garden. I had not realized how some plants needed a good pruning and a few plants had even outgrown their space and needed to be moved. I had shrubs with a lot of dead wood that needed to be taken out and I could not believe I did not notice this before. I got out old photos of areas in the garden and was amazed at how the garden had slowly changed.

As I have been working, I would have to remind myself to follow some basic principles of design that have helped me over the years. I started out as a collector and realized years ago, I needed order to my garden and to have some “bones” or structure in some places where things were lacking.

Some of the things I try to remember are not to make it too much of a “hodge-podge” of plant material. Variety is important, but do not overdo it. Balance, proportion and unity are important. You need to think about a garden as an extension of your home and think about how you decorate a room. You use some of these same ideas when making a room in the garden.

You need different shapes, sizes, texture and form. If the entire yard were all the same, it would not be very interesting. It is good to balance things in the garden. If you have something on one side of a path, repeat it to give some balance on the other side.

If you are starting from scratch to landscape an area or just making some little changes, you start with trees. This could be trees that are in place now or the trees that you want to consider adding. They could also be borrowed trees that overhang your property from a neighbor’s garden. Trees are the main landscaping feature. Start with letting the trees you have or are considering planting be the first thing to guide your landscape.

Trees set the stage and give you different options when planning. You can use them to have dappled shade, woodland shade or have deep shade if you want to create a woodland garden. Trees can help you divide areas into rooms.

The second thing to consider is the “bones” of the garden. Good gardens have good bones and winter is a good time to see this. The greenery that catches your eye or architectural elements like walls, fences, patios, pathways or arbors are the solid elements of a garden. Make sure you have enough greenery to give your garden an attractive look in the winter months.

The third thing is to make sure your garden has some unity, consistency

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Trump to host Israel, UAE for historic signing ceremony at White House next week

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump-backed candidate wins NH GOP Senate primary to take on Shaheen Trump, supporters gather without masks in NC despite request from local GOP official Trump-backed candidate wins NH GOP primary to take on Pappas MORE will host representatives from Israel and the United Arab Emirates next week at the White House for a historic ceremony establishing diplomatic relations between the two countries, administration officials said on Wednesday. 

The ceremony will take place on Sept. 15, one month after the president announced the significant breakthrough in diplomatic relations between Israel and the Gulf nation, called the Abraham Accords. 

It also follows a number of important moves toward normalizing relations between countries in the region, including the first direct flight from Tel Aviv to Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia granting permission for the aircraft to fly through its air space, a significant gesture signaling a public warming of relations between Riyadh and Jerusalem.

Trump’s son-in-law and White House senior adviser Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerUS brokers economic breakthrough for Serbia, Kosovo Karlie Kloss, a Kushner relative, to appear at Biden campaign event Melania Trump used private email account while in White House, ex-friend says MORE, who took the inaugural flight last week, said there’s a “tremendous sense of optimism in the Middle East.”

“I would say that it’s almost like we’ve unleashed an energy, positivity in the region that is really quite overwhelming,” he said in a briefing with reporters.

Kushner said Israel and the UAE will choose their own representatives to send to the signing ceremony and that the White House will invite both Democrats and Republicans to the event in a show of bipartisanship.

“We hope that Republicans, Democrats will come together to join us in this great celebration,” he said.

Kushner said officials are discussing a deal to sell F-35 stealth jet fighters to the UAE and that Trump is working with Israel to ensure its qualitative military edge (QME), a provision enshrined in U.S. law that is meant to ensure Jerusalem maintains military superiority in the face of any credible threats.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin NetanyahuBenjamin (Bibi) NetanyahuMORE has publicly opposed the sale of the F-35s despite condoning the sale in private, The New York Times reported last week, citing officials familiar with the negotiations. 

Kushner said the U.S. will work within the QME but that Abu Dhabi is a “great military partner” for America and is facing threats from Iran. 

“They’re right on the border with Iran and have real threats,” he said.

As part of the opening of relations between the UAE and Israel, Netanyahu agreed to “suspend” plans to annex territory in the West Bank that was identified in Trump’s proposed peace plan between Israelis and Palestinians unveiled in January, Prosperity to Peace.

Trump administration officials said at the time that Israel did not have to wait to annex territory identified in the plan but that it would put a freeze on land earmarked for a Palestinian state for

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The Houston Botanic Garden will open Sept. 18

After two years of construction, Houston’s first botanic garden will finally open Sept. 18.

“The Houston Botanic Garden is a 132-acre living museum for plants that showcases the biodiversity that thrives along the Texas Gulf Coast,” Claudia Gee Vassar, the garden’s president and general counsel, said.

“A stroll through our outdoor gallery spaces – including the Global Collection Garden, Culinary Garden, and Susan Garver Family Discovery Garden – will engage the senses in the unique cultural experience associated with a botanic garden, which are found throughout major metropolitan areas around the world, but until now was missing among the world-class institutions here at home in our diverse and internationally known city.”

The garden’s Phase 1 is now complete. Phase 1’s Global Collection Garden so far includes a tropical zone with a “rainforest” and plants displaying some of nature’s most beautiful and vibrant shapes and colors, a Culinary Garden with edible and medicinal plants, a family discovery garden with water machines and a boardwalk maze, and two natural ecosystem areas, as reported by the Houston Business Journal.

FIND IT IN TEXAS: Whimsical new boutique hotel makes its grand debut in this Texas town

An educational space and a space for weddings is also in the works and will be completed at a later date.

The Houston Chronicle reported that Phase 2 involves enhancing the current collections and some additional research work, and Phase 3, which will likely be happening in the years to come, could include an education and events building and “seasonal display area aimed at home gardeners.”

Opening day will kick off a series of weekend events, according to Director of Communications & Community Engagement Justin Lacey, with opportunities for guests to learn more about the Bayou City’s cultural richness and biodiversity.

The Houston Botanic Garden will be open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and customers will be required to abide by COVID-19 safety guidelines, including wearing masks and social distancing. The garden will eventually be located at

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Justice Department intervenes in Trump and E. Jean Carroll case

E. Jean Carroll visits ‘Tell Me Everything’ with John Fugelsang the SiriusXM Studios on July 11, 2019 in New York.

Noam Galai | Getty Images

The White House requested that the U.S. Justice Department launch a last-minute, controversial effort to intervene in a lawsuit in which President Donald Trump is accused of defaming E. Jean Carroll, a writer who says Trump raped her years ago, Attorney General William Barr revealed Wednesday.

Barr also said that American taxpayers — and not Trump personally — will be responsible for any monetary damages awarded Carroll, if she proves her claims against the president, and if a judge agrees to allow the Department of Justice to handle the case.

Barr defended the DOJ’s intervention in the case as proper and warranted by both the law and recent practice by other administrations.

The DOJ on Tuesday filed a legal action seeking to transfer Carroll’s defamation lawsuit against Trump, which was filed in New York state court, to Manhattan federal court.

The action also asks that the United States government replace Trump as the defendant in the case.

The case was assigned Wednesday to U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan, who was appointed to the bench by President Bill Clinton. Kaplan has yet to schedule a hearing on the DOJ’s request to remove the case from state court.

The request comes two months before the U.S. presidential election, but 10 months after Carroll sued Trump.

Carroll sued Trump last November after he said she was lying when she claimed in a published account that he had raped her in a Manhattan department store in the mid-1990s. Since the suit was filed in Manhattan Supreme Court, Trump has been represented by a private attorney, not a DOJ attorney.

But in its filing Tuesday, the DOJ said that it had certified that Trump “was acting within the scope of his office or employment at the time of the incident out of which the claim arose.”

“The United States will file a motion to substitute itself for President Trump in this action for any claim for which the [Federal Tort Claims Act] provides the exclusive remedy,” the DOJ said in its filing in federal court.

Barr, during a press conference in Chicago on Wednesday, defended the filing, and said it was done at the behest of the White House.

He said that the DOJ’s request to transfer the case, and to replace Trump as the defendant, was authorized by the Federal Employees Liability Reform and Tort Compensation Act, which is also known as the Westfall Act. That act protects government employees from civil liability for acts related to their official duties.

Barr said that an appeals court decision has ruled that the law protects government employees even in cases where a claim involves them being asked questions by the press that “relate to their personal activity.”

The attorney general has said that the process for invoking the act that has been developed is for the employer of the employee to

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When Jimmy Carter’s White House was a tour stop for long-haired, ‘torpedo’-smoking rock outlaws

Near the beginning of “Jimmy Carter: Rock & Roll President,” the new documentary that explores the 39th president’s connection to the music community during his four-year term, President Carter offers a revelation involving one of his children, country singer Willie Nelson and what Nelson once described as “a big fat Austin torpedo.”

Jimmy Carter et al. sitting on a bench: Jimmy Carter relaxes with Willie Nelson. (Carter Presidential Library)

© (Carter Presidential Library)
Jimmy Carter relaxes with Willie Nelson. (Carter Presidential Library)

Asked about Nelson’s account of smoking marijuana on the roof of the White House at the tail end of Carter’s term in 1980, the former president lets out a chuckle.

Nelson, Carter explains in the film, “says that his companion that shared the pot with him was one of the servants at the White House. That is not exactly true. It actually was one of my sons.”

It’s a brief exchange, but the coy interaction sets the tone for this affectionate, revelatory film about the ways in which a Georgia peanut farmer, on a mission in 1976 to upend American politics, tapped a kind of political action committee of artists, stoned or otherwise, to make his long-shot run at the presidency. Once victorious, Carter opened his doors to musicians, their art and at least one illicit joint.

Directed by Mary Wharton and produced by Chris Farrell, “Jimmy Carter: Rock & Roll President” celebrated its theatrical release on Tuesday, part of an extended rollout that will see it move from theater to on-demand in October to, ultimately, CNN at the beginning of 2021.

At one point in the film, Carter sits next to a turntable with Bob Dylan’s “Bringin’ It All Back Home’” cued up and says matter-of-factly, “The Allman Bros. helped put me in the White House by raising money when I didn’t have any money.”

Across Carter’s term, artists including Nelson, Charles Mingus, Loretta Lynn, Bob Dylan, Sarah Vaughan, Cecil Taylor, Linda Ronstadt (who had campaigned against Carter with her then-boyfriend Jerry Brown), the Staple Singers, Cher (and her then-boyfriend, Gregg Allman) and Tom T. Hall either visited or performed at the White House. Crosby, Stills and Nash once dropped by the place unannounced. Carter made time for them.

The musicians’ very presence was a grand shift. Inheriting a Vietnam War-embattled White House that for the eight years prior had been occupied by Richard Nixon and, after his resignation, Gerald Ford, Carter and first lady Rosalynn Carter treated the center of power not as a fortified bunker but as a kind of People’s Park. Members of the Woodstock generation were out of college and getting haircuts. The war was over, and with it the Selective Service draft.

“We thought we were celebrating victories that we had won,” says Nile Rodgers, producer and founder of funk band Chic, of the Carter presidency. “This is at about the height of the Black Power movement, the height of the women’s movement. The gay rights movement has come out.”

“Musicians are always looking for the truth, right? That’s kind of what they do as songwriters,” says director Wharton.

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Six other Colorado River states send warning to Interior over Utah’s Lake Powell Pipeline

Six states with claim to water in the Colorado River have fired a warning shot at Utah over the controversial Lake Powell Pipeline.

a stone building that has a rocky cliff: The Colorado River flowing from the foot of the Glen Canyon Dam in Arizona.

© Sam Gross/The St. George Spectrum & Daily News
The Colorado River flowing from the foot of the Glen Canyon Dam in Arizona.

Don’t allow Utah to bum-rush approval for the 150-mile pipeline, the six states warned in a letter to Secretary of Interior David Bernhardt, or there could be far-reaching consequences.

The letter, signed by top water officials from Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada and Wyoming, says there are “substantive legal and operational issues” around the pipeline that remain unresolved, despite the proposed project nearing a stage where federal approval could be issued.

a boat sitting on the side of a building: The Glen Canyon Dam on the Utah/Arizona border on Aug. 21, 2020.

© Sam Gross/The St. George Spectrum & Daily News
The Glen Canyon Dam on the Utah/Arizona border on Aug. 21, 2020.

While the federal government — in this case, the Bureau of Reclamation — may normally have full authority to issue approval for an infrastructure project like this, Colorado River water is governed by a complicated and oftentimes litigious collection of inter-state compacts and Supreme Court cases known as The Law of the River.

The six states — all of the water rights holders aside from the Beehive State — are alleging Utah is attempting to circumvent this 100-year-old body of laws and compacts, potentially jeopardizing cooperation between the seven states with rights to Colorado River water — one of the west’s most finite and sought-after resources relied on by approximately 40 million people. 

“Moreover, we believe the probability of multi-year litigation over a Lake Powell Pipeline (final environmental impact statement) or (record of decision) is high, and that certain Law of the River questions properly left to discussions and resolution between the states are likely to be raised in such suits,” the letter reads.”

In a written statement, the Washington County Water Conservation District said it will work diligently with the other basin states to resolve concerns while the environmental review process is underway. 

“The district will join Utah and the basin states in finding mutually agreeable solutions that allow each state to develop its water as has traditionally been the case,” the conservation district wrote. 

The six states are looking for ‘consensus’

The Lake Powell Pipeline is Utah’s answer to expected water shortages as more and more people are projected to move to the arid desert of Washington County over the next several decades.

Projections from Utah expect population in the greater St. George area to balloon from about 180,000 people today to nearly a half-million by 2065, creating a need for water that exceeds what’s currently available, according to proponents of the project.

At peak production, the pipeline is proposed to transport about 86,000 acre-feet of water a year from Lake Powell to Sand Hollow Reservoir 140 miles away, not only increasing the amount of water available but adding another source of water to southwestern Utah’s portfolio, which currently relies solely on sources in the Virgin River Basin.

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