St. George’s growth and progress depends on water, says the mayor in a state of the city address

St George • As for southern Utah’s largest city, its future growth and progress depends largely on water, St. George Mayor Michele Randall said Tuesday during her state of the city address.

Speaking to a packed crowd at the Dixie Convention Center, Randall reminded attendees that despite recent storms, the area continues to be affected by a moderate drought and the city still needs to save and find more water sources.

“Even though we’ve had a very wet year this year and had a lot of humidity… we still have a lot of challenges when it comes to water,” the mayor said.

Despite ongoing concerns about the long-term availability of water, Randall highlighted the strides the city has made on conservation over the past year, including implementing a restrictive water ordinance that bans non-functional grass on new commercial and industrial developments and limits the amount of grass permitted when building new houses.

Randall also commended the city’s lawn removal efforts. All in all, she said, the city removed 60,000 square feet of grass, which is equivalent to “taking an 18-inch strip and rolling it from City Hall to beyond the Arizona border.”

Replacing the grass with xeriscaping in the City Commons building across from City Hall saved 275 million gallons of water last year, according to the mayor. In addition, the city has saved a total of 113.5 million gallons over the past two years by planting fescue grass—grass known for its drought tolerance—in non-playable areas on city golf courses.

Another conservation highlight, Randall noted, is construction of the second phase of the city’s ongoing $65 million upgrade to its wastewater treatment plant. When completed later this year, the expansion project is expected to increase the facility’s wastewater treatment capacity from 17 million gallons per day to 24 million gallons per day.

It is part of an effort to phase out the use of kitchen water for outdoor irrigation and replace it with secondary or irrigation water. And while it doesn’t sound palatable, the plant could be used to make sewage potable or potable.

“They do that in Las Vegas,” the mayor said. “And I know it sounds terribly gross, but it could come to that [our] Water.”

Another water project is Graveyard Wash, a reservoir planned for a municipal lot just off Highway 91 that will store reused water.

“It’s going to hold up to … 12 or 1400 acre-feet of water, so in the winter we can pump our recycled water into that reservoir and store it for the summer because we’re just treating that water and sending it downriver to Lake Mead.” said Randall.

The project is currently in the final design phase. Construction of the reservoir is scheduled to begin this fall and is expected to take 18 months.

Still, the mayor told The Tribune after her remarks that St George’s water supply could eventually run out without finding additional water sources. To that end, the mayor said a reservoir, which the Washington County Water Conservancy District has long proposed for nearby Warner Valley, would help allay such concerns.

“We’re still crossing our fingers for the Lake Powell pipeline, but a Warner Valley reservoir would be huge. It would allow us to pump reused water there, mix it with water from the Sand Hollow Reservoir, and make it potable. So there are projects on the horizon that would help with water, but it takes time. So we are now promoting nature conservation.”

(City of St. George) The city plans to build City Hall on the east side of Main Street, across from Historic Town Square.

With water levels in Lake Powell at historic lows and water flow on the Colorado River sharply reduced due to drought, many experts say the proposed 140-mile Lake Powell Pipeline is unlikely to be built any time soon, if at all .

Still, such water concerns did little to dampen the spirit of celebration at the event, which focused primarily on the city’s advances and forthcoming projects that will transform the cityscape and skyline.

First up is a new City Hall that the city plans to build on the east side of Main Street across from Historic Town Square. Newly appointed City Manager John Willis, also speaking at the event, mentioned the current St. George City Hall on the hill north of St. George Blvd. is bursting at the seams and a replacement is long overdue.

“When it was built [in 1980]we had 11,000 people living in St. George,” he said.

St. George had 105 full-time employees at the time, but the city’s population today hovers around 100,000 and the city employs 800 full-time workers, according to city spokesman David Cordero.

Currently, the city is still accepting bids for the project, but has some preliminary illustrations of what the building will look like. Willis said the city hopes to break ground on the project later this year. The St. George Police Department will eventually take over the current City Hall.

Growth, as St. George executives have repeatedly noted over the past few years, is driving the need for ever-increasing amenities and infrastructure.

“St. George’s has been the fastest growing city in the nation for several years,” said Willis. “People want to be here. People want to move here. People want to raise their families here. And that’s one of the reasons why our growth and population continues to increase.”

To meet this need, St. George recently completed Fish Rock Park in the community of Ledges and the Temple Springs Trail, which winds from the Red Hills Parkway down to 700 East and St. George Blvd. Randall said two more parks are on the way — Fossil Falls Park near the Virgin River, due for completion in June, and Broken Mesa, due for completion this year in the Desert Canyons area near St. George Airport is aimed at.

Planned public safety improvements also received props from city officials. Chief among these is Fire Station 1, the main fire station being built at 400 E. and 100 South on the site of the former Flood Street Chapel, which the city purchased from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Once the main station comes online in 2024, it will be 20,000 square feet, almost three times the current station’s 7,500 square feet at 1000 East, and will offer easier access that should improve response times. Another station is proposed for the Desert Color area.

Other planned infrastructure projects mentioned at the event include a major renewal of Dixie Drive, a new intersection on the Southern Parkway at the end of George Washington Blvd. and a major hiking trail that will stretch along State Route 7, beginning at the Desert Color Parkway and continuing east past the airport to the Hurricane, among others.

Such infrastructure and amenities contribute to an increased quality of life, something Randall was in short supply during her last visit to Disneyland — just outside the amusement park gates.

“The garbage, the graffiti, the traffic, the homeless… it was crazy,” the mayor said. “And so we have it really good here.”

Despite the occasional dig over California, Golden State expats Robert and Debra Cipriani took no offense. The couple moved to St. George five years ago to escape crime, traffic and other problems that they say continue to plague California.

“We truly love St. George and are blessed to live here,” Debra said. “It’s like a breath of fresh air. There really is no comparison [with California].”

For his part, St. George resident Alan Mitchell said he appreciates the positive attitude of city guides.

“But,” he added, “I think they overestimate the achievements and underestimate the problems we face. Having said that, I think there are many other cities that would happily swap places with St. George, problems and all. We really have a great quality of life.” St. George’s growth and progress depends on water, says the mayor in a state of the city address

Justin Scacco

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