by Mori Kessler – St. George News – December 30, 2023
ST. GEORGE — While visiting Washington County in mid-December, senate-hopeful Brad Wilson held a town hall meeting in Washington City where he spoke to a myriad of issues and noted plans to make regular visits to Southern Utah while on the campaign trail.
“Southern Utah is very important to me for a lot of reasons,” the former Utah House speaker from Kaysville told St. George following a town hall meeting held Dec. 13 at the Brio community clubhouse in Washington City. “I love this part of the state and we spend a lot of time down here. I’ve got a lot of great friends and a tremendous amount of support.”
Wilson announced Friday in a news release he will officially file papers on Tuesday, Jan. 2, at the office of the Lieutenant Governor in the Utah State Capitol.
The friends Wilson mentioned he had in Washington County were in attendance at the town hall and included former Rep. Brad Last of Hurricane and Sen. Don Ipson of St. George.
“We’re going to be down here a lot,” he said. “And it’s because I want people to know in Washington County and Southern Utah that I know them and that I know their issues, and I will fight for them in Washington, D.C.”
Wilson spoke to various issues facing the state and country overall, while also touching on local issues like water conservation and the Northern Corridor.
“Water is the most important long-term issue that has to be solved in our state,” Wilson said.
He went on to say there is no one-size-fits-all solution in Utah, as water conservation measures in Washington County are different from those in northern Utah. For example, while work is underway to replenish the Great Salt Lake, the big project in Washington County — which the state has invested several million dollars toward — is a regional water reuse system.
“We have different strategies for different parts of the state,” Wilson said while touting his work on legislation that saw the creation of Utah’s Colorado River Authority in 2021.
Wilson and others involved have said the new state agency puts Utah on more equal footing with other states in the Colorado River Basin when it comes to defending the state’s interests on the river.
Before the agency’s creation, Wilson said Utah was “going into a water fight with other states with one arm tied behind its back.”
“The last chapter has not yet been written, but we are in a much better position as a state to defend our share of the Colorado River than we’ve ever been,” he said, adding that Utah a Senator with a good understanding of the state’s water issues and will work vigorously to promote and secure the state’s interests in this regard.
While Wilson did not mention the Lake Powell Pipeline, he reiterated that Washington County’s water needs, like the rest of the state’s, are long-term and need long-lasting solutions. He also said he supports the plans for water conservation already undertaken by the Washington County Water Conservancy District.
Concerning the Northern Corridor, a proposed roadway that would cross into the Red Cliffs National Conservation Area and protected Mohave desert tortoise territory — Wilson said he supports it.
“Local leaders unanimously support the importance of the corridor,” Wilson said, adding it is considered a critical piece of transportation infrastructure for Washington County as it experiences growth.
Recently, a federal judge ruled that the Bureau of Land Management review the process that led to the approval of a right-of-way for the Northern Corridor. This could lead to the approval of the Northern Corridor either remaining or being rescinded and once again stalled.
The BLM originally granted approval for a right-of-way to the Utah Department of Transportation for the Northern Corridor in early 2021. That decision was subsequently hit with a lawsuit from a coalition of local and national environmental groups that has yet to conclude.
Wilson said Utah’s entire congressional delegation needs to be united in fighting for Utah’s needs, which includes the Northern Corridor.
“We need to make sure we get that transportation investment and get the federal government out of the way of what’s a vital need down here — so I absolutely support that effort,” he said.
Depending upon the outcome of the BLM’s review, Wilson said there are various options that can be pursued in order to proceed with construction, be they legislative or judicial.
“This is a vital need for the state and we’ve got to make sure everyone is fighting for those things,” he said.
As for more national concerns, Wilson said he favors the passing of a balanced budget amendment and reining in government spending. Utah’s Legislature passes a balanced budget each year and the same principle’s need to be applied at Washington, D.C., he said.
Federal bureaucracies also need to be scaled back to stop the growth of government and return the business of lawmaking to Congress, for which Wilson said he would relentlessly fight.
Stronger border enforcement and continuing to build a wall along the country’s southern border were also agendas Wilson said he backed. He also supports measures for more domestic oil production versus importing oil from outside the country.
Overall, the people of Utah need to send someone to the Senate to represent Utah in Washington, D.C., and not Washington, D.C. to the people of Utah, Wilson said.