Power officials apparently proposed unacceptable conditions Wednesday in exchange for their help to keep the Central Utah Project alive, according to some participants in a daylong negotiating session.
The power companies also told some participants that they plan to block any action on a compromise CUP bill this year that would require increasing rates for Colorado River hydroelectric power to fund the CUP.And adding to problems for the CUP is that groups working on a compromise CUP funding bill decided not to meet again until Aug. 12 - two days after a deadline set by House Interior Committee Chairman Morris Udall, D-Ariz., to have the bill ready if passage is expected this year.
The longer the bill is delayed, the more trouble the CUP faces in continuing construction. CUP spending limits must be increased to complete the $2 billion water project designed in part to bring water from eastern Utah to the Wasatch Front.
Last week, Utah's Congressional delegation agreed on a framework for the bill. But approval of the four states involved - Utah, Colorado, Wyoming and New Mexico - and the region's public electric utilities is still needed for the bill to move out of Udall's committee.
The Colorado River Electrical Distribution Association - representing public power companies - circulated a two-page document detailing a formula to calculate how much it would spend on water and related environmental projects in the four states.
Yet to be filled in, however, is how much the association would be willing to allocate per kilowatt hour as well as when the arrangement would begin and how long it would last.
And aides to Utah congressmen said some of the provisions in the proposal - such as essentially giving power companies title to power plants at the dams and allowing them to build transmission lines without outside approval - might be illegal and likely would never be approved by Congress.
Before Aug. 12, a committee of representatives from the four Upper Basin states and public power groups will meet to calculate what power rates would be under a number of different scenarios.
The committee will also be looking at a proposal put on the table by the states themselves, which called for Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming to share in the CUP funds along with Utah.
That four-page statement circulated at the meeting would give Utah 75 percent of the money raised for the projects until the state received a total allotment of $350 million.
But any progress was tempered by the fact the group will miss the Aug. 10 deadline set by Udall - a fact that didn't overly concern many members of the group.
Dee Hansen, executive director of the Utah Department of Natural Resources, said that some participants in the meeting disagreed on the significance of the deadline set by Udall.
Hansen said another meeting, tentatively scheduled for Monday, was scrapped after some attendees argued that the deadline was more flexible than they had been led to believe.
"The 10th became an issue because they thought we were trying to move it too fast," Hansen said.