The House Rules Committee, after a contentious hearing Thursday, scheduled the reauthorization of the central Utah water project for a Monday floor vote.
The committee directed that the bill be open for an unlimited number of amendments, preceded by an hour of general debate.The bill would add at least $885 million to the cost of Central Utah Project, which now stands at an authorized $1.3 billion. Other provisions of the bill would push the additional costs to nearly $1 billion.
Rep. Joe Moakley, D-Mass., chairman of Rules, described the CUP bill as "on a fast track" because of the interest of House Speaker Tom Foley, D-Wash.
Although Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, had arranged promises from the House Democratic leadership that the CUP bill would get through Rules, several witnesses before that panel indicated that they were strongly opposed, largely because of sections added by Rep. George Miller, D-Calif.
Several predicted that the measure would fail to win a majority in the House next week.
Miller added to CUP his reclamation reform proposals, including new limits on the acreage that could be watered with low-cost federal water, and a provision that after two years water users pay at least half of the costs of their water - far above present cost-sharing.
In addition, Miller's Water and Power subcommittee has drafted a large bloc of so-called technical amendments to the bill that some members fear could affect their states.
Rep. Ben Campbell, D-Colo., implored the Rules Committee not to let Miller move on the floor to de-authorize four Colorado projects. Campbell said he had made a deal with Miller to support the measure if the Colorado projects were protected, and feared they were again being put in jeopardy.
"A deal's a deal," Campbell said.
Miller declined to say what was in the amendments.
Owens, in pleading for favorable committee action, stressed the importance of CUP to Utahns. He said that in Utah "more people are killed fighting over water than over women."
Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah, told the Committee "the only way the Wasatch Front can exist is with CUP water."
Opposition came from Rep. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, who objected to Miller's reclamation provisions. Craig called CUP "a travesty - a shell" designed to carry the Miller provisions, which he noted have not had committee review and would make major changes in western water law.
"If people look at this bill closely, it will come tumbling down on the floor," Craig predicted.
Rep. Lynn Martin, R-Ill., said she would be hard-pressed to tell her constituents they should help pay for Utah water projects.
"Why shouldn't Utah pay for this themselves?" she added.
Miller told the Committee the reauthorization was made necessary by a "massive screw-up by the federal government" in handling the project.
He added that he thought Utahns would balk at sharing the cost of the irrigation portion of the CUP, and would never build it.
"Utah is not going to be very happy with this bill," he predicted.
Rep. Charles Pashayan, R-Calif., told Hansen after the Committee vote that he would oppose the measure on the Floor and it was "a billion dollar boondoggle."