Officials at the Central Utah Water Conservancy District are so optimistic that the Central Utah Project funding bill will pass Congress in 1991 that district directors have approved dipping into reserves for $1 million to begin planning work on the projects that will be funded by the CUP bill.

The district had hoped to have the bill passed during the 1990 session. When the Bush administration threw its support behind the measure, there was reason for optimism. Unfortunately, the bill was victimized by congressional preoccupation with passing a budget compromise and efforts to add riders to the measure."The (Utah congressional) delegation did an excellent job of crafting the legislation and they had everyone on board," said Don Christiansen, district manager. "We had support from the administration and the environmental groups, and it really should have gone through."

Christiansen said the delegation has promised to re-introduce the measure early in 1991, and he expects to have it signed, sealed and delivered sometime in the spring. A key issue involves inclusion of the Reclamation Reform Act sponsored by Rep. George Miller, D-Calif. That measure, which would prevent farms and ranches over 960 acres from receiving federally subsidized water, is considered a key in attracting sufficient House support to win passage.

In winning support for the $1 million budget boost, Christiansen told the district board that many of the projects that will be authorized by the CUP bill have a five-year time limit for committing construction funds.

"By moving forward now, we can get a three- or four- month jump on those projects and have 63 or 64 months instead of 60," Christiansen said.

Eight items were listed for funding:

- Begin preparation of specifications for land classification in Levan and Upper Sevier River areas.

- Begin the Wasatch County irrigation efficiency improvement studies.

- Begin Utah Lake salinity control studies.

- Bring water supply computer operation studies on the Strawberry Aqueduct, Jordanelle - Provo River, Utah Lake, Wasatch Aqueduct - main conveyance system and the Sevier River up to date.

- Develop financing and cost-sharing procedures for anticipated projects.

- Develop contracts, agreements and petitions for selling water contracts.

- Begin studies on alternative reservoir sites in the Uinta Basin.

- Develop water conservation measures.

Christiansen said no priority has been given any of the projects. He said most will be worked on simultaneously and where necessary, the district will use outside consultants to ensure work proceeds on a timely basis.

The board has scheduled a Dec. 13 public hearing to consider adopting a $17.2 million budget that will go into effect Jan. 1. The new budget is about 21 percent less than the district spent in 1990. Most of the difference stems from a reduction in capital expenditures. The district spent $10.1 million on an aqueduct project and $1.7 million to repair and improve the Trial Lake dam this year.

Christiansen said spending the $1 million in reserves is a bit of a gamble. If the CUP bill fails, the money will essentially be lost. If the bill passes, a good percentage of the money will be recovered through reimbursements permitted by the legislation.