The Senate Appropriations Committee on Wednesday approved $30 million for Interior Department projects in Utah - including start-up funding for an outdoor theater near Moab.
The bill now goes to the full Senate. Many of the projects were not included in a House-passed version of the bill. A conference is expected soon to work out differences between the House and Senate versions and determine which projects will survive.Sen. Jake Garn, R-Utah, a member of the Senate Appropriations committee, was especially pleased it provided $250,000 for a study of environmental, engineering, marketing and architectural concerns about the Kokapelli National Outdoor Theater he is proposing for Moab.
"This theater, (which would be) located in the beautiful, scenic area outside Moab, will attract top-quality performers from across the country and help promote the University of Utah's superb tradition of performing arts," Garn said.
The Bush administration has opposed the theater, however, saying it is an unnecessary expense in a time when the country is trying to cut the budget.
Other Utah projects approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee Wednesday include:
- $4.9 million for construction of a visitor's center in the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park.
- $3 million for rehabilitation of the Bear River National Wildlife Refuge, almost three times as much as in the House version of the bill. The refuge has been damaged by years of flooding by the Great Salt Lake.
- $400,000 for oil shale research and $1 million for tar sands research by the University of Utah.
- $1.8 million for a University of Utah consortium for fossil fuel liquefaction science; $5.6 million for university water research; and $140,000 for a university mineral institute program.
- $970,000 for a Glen Canyon boat ramp extension.
- $350,000 to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management for pollution control in recreational areas around Moab.
- A $105 million program for federal payments in lieu of taxes, of which Utah should receive $10 million.