The five Utah members of Congress conceded Tuesday that they cannot win approval this year of the bill they had agreed on to reauthorize the Central Utah Project.
"It is evident," said Sen. Jake Garn, R-Utah, "that we do not have the votes to pass that bill."Instead, they will attempt to pass a one-year stopgap bill raising the water project's authorization by $127 million to allow construction to continue until Sept. 30, 1990, Garn said.
The stopgap bill is scheduled to go before the full House Interior Committee on Wednesday. However, Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, said he did not have a promise from committee Chairman Rep. Morris K. Udall, D-Ariz., to take it up if it is controversial.
Environmental groups said Monday that they will oppose the bill, and congressmen from other states have objected to including some $80 million to start irrigation features that would cost $400 million to complete.
In Utah, Robert B. Hilbert, chairman of the Central Utah Water Conservancy District board of directors, has been involved daily with the legislation as it has evolved and Tuesday called the events of the past week confusing and disappointing. Central Utah officials were hoping the long-term reauthorization could have been approved this year, instead of just a stopgap approach.
If the House does approve an interim measure, Garn said he hopes he could get it through the Senate before Congress adjourns.
"The exact amount of money is not as important as getting some sort of interim increase," Garn said. "The really important thing is that we must get a comprehensive increase next year that will finish the project."
Over the next five months, the Utah delegation will attempt to explain its proposal to complete the CUP to the other Colorado Basin states, Garn added, and try to pass it early in the 101st Congress when it meets in January.
Owens, co-author of the bill's controversial financing provisions, said the compromise version came close to being approved in Salt Lake City last week by Upper Basin officials. But it was shot down by Colorado Gov. Roy Romer, who said he needed more time to examine the proposal.
Environmental groups in Washington said they objected to the Utah effort for a one-year increase in the cost ceiling for the CUP because the interim bill does not include the $200 million in fish and wildlife projects of the more comprehensive measure. David Campbell of the National Wildlife Federation said his group will oppose taking up the one-year extension by the House Interior Committee on Wednesday.
Campbell said there is still a question as to the CUP's spending authority, and he objected to an increase that would allow a start on irrigation works such as the Loafer Mountain Tunnel and the Wasatch Aqueduct.