Central Utah Water Conservancy District officials are in Washington, D.C., this weekend lobbying hard for Senate passage of a $900 million appropriation to complete the Central Utah Project.
Officials hope to get the bill passed before the Senate adjourns for the fall recess. General Manager Don Christiansen told the district's board of directors Thursday that chances are good that the bill can be passed while Congress completes work on a budget package.The bill passed the House last week after winning support from the Bush administration. Efforts to move the bill forward in the Senate bogged down this week as senators attempted to add riders to the legislation.
"I'm confident that we can get passage, but it will take some effort," Christiansen said. "We're hoping we can get it through before the Senate finishes work on the budget package which will probably take until Monday or Tuesday."
Christiansen said the district's new budget, which will go into effect Jan. 1, is being developed on the premise that the bill will win final approval. The board is scheduled to vote on a preliminary budget at its Nov. 15 meeting and the final version following a public hearing on Dec. 13.
Director Gerald K. Maloney expressed concern over plans to dip into district reserves as part of the budget package. He said he wants the board's finance committee to provide an alternative "bare bones" budget for consideration along with one reflecting passage of the CUP legislation.
Christiansen said using reserve money is necessary because it will take up to 12 months before federal funds begin trickling down to the district. The bill requires that all projects funded by the authorization be either under construction or ready to go within five years.
"We want to get a running start so that we're ready to go within that time frame," Christiansen said. "Even if the bill is not passed now, we expect to have it by March or April. That would give us 63 to 64 months to get the projects under way."
Christiansen said not all of the reserves used would be replaced with federal money. Most of the projects require matching funds from the local jurisdiction and that portion of the money used would not be replaced.
At Maloney's insistence, the finance committee agreed to meet in two weeks to review the budget proposal and provide the information requested. The board also agreed to suspend consideration of a proposed 4 percent cost of living raise and potential 5 percent merit raise for employees contained in the budget package. Those issues will be addressed at the Nov. 15 meeting.