Congressional reauthorization of the Central Utah Water Project died after midnight Saturday as the House and Senate struggled toward adjournment.
Sen. Jake Garn, R-Utah, and Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, worked until after midnight in futile attempts to work out a compromise of reclamation reform language that doomed the omnibus water project bill of which CUP was a part.The bill would have provided $894 million in additional authorizations to finish the Utah project.
Owens and Garn said they had agreed to introduce the CUP bill again on the first day of the 102nd Congress when it meets again in January.
Both men said they felt they had worked out a compromise version of their bill that a majority of Congress could support in a less-tense atmosphere than the final minutes of the just-ended session.
"We fell victim to the California governor's race," Owens added, referring to the opposition of Sen. Pete Wilson, R-Calif., to a limitation to 960 acres per farming unit for federally subsidized water.
Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., insisted on that limit as the price of his support for the CUP bill.
CUP officials said the failure this year would not halt the project, which has sufficient money left to complete the Jordanelle Dam and reservoir.
But if federal financing fails in the next session, water users might be faced with the cost of finishing the rest of the project themselves.
In that case, the water users would probably have to negotiate to buy the unfinished project from the federal government in order to complete the municipal and industrial portion. More than $200 million in environmental mitigation work would face cancellation, as would the irrigation features.
Owens met with Miller in futile attempts to try to soften Miller's reclamation provisions, while both houses of Congress moved toward adjournment.
On Friday, the Senate stripped from the omnibus water projects bill reclamation reform language inserted by the House and demanded by Miller, chairman of the House Water and Power subcommittee. Wilson threatened to block the entire bill if the reclamation reform provisions were not dropped.
There was little disagreement over the details of CUP funding itself, but Miller has insisted on stringent reform of federal water law, restricting to 960 acres the size of farming units that could receive subsidized federal water.
Wilson and other senators from western farming states object to tight limits that might bar many multifamily farms from receiving water at any price.