Public power groups support a $45.2 million stopgap bill to keep work on the Colorado River Storage Project going while negotiations with water officials continue over financing provisions that will likely boost public power rates.
"There is no opposition from us," said Alene Bentley, spokeswoman for the Intermountain Consumer Power Association. "We're supportive of it."Most of the money would be spent on the Central Utah Project, which is part of CRSP. Water officials propose to issue bonds to finance the irrigation and drainage portion of the CUP and use power revenue from federal dams to repay the bonds.
The stopgap bill raises the CRSP spending by about one-seventh of the amount requested for the project in a major bill being worked on by the Utah congressional delegation that is stalled in committee until it wins public power's support.
The stopgap bill cleared the House Interior Committee Wednesday but has yet to gain the approval of the full House and Senate.
Committee Chairman Rep. Morris Udall, D-Ariz., has told House Water and Power Subcommittee member Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, he wants to see public power's support for the major bill before he will bring it up in his committee.
Former Utah Gov. Scott Matheson, now a private attorney, said public power always has gone on rec-ord supporting the CUP. He said arguments over the major bill have caused more arguments among members of the Utah delegation than any other issue he can remember. The lack of unity among the delegation members is another factor mitigating the major bill's success in Congress.
Even though public power did not sign off on the bill after an Aug. 3 meeting in Salt Lake City in time for a committee markup Wednesday as CUP officials had hoped, the group has no plans to fight the stopgap bill, said Bentley after water and power officials met for the second time in Salt Lake City on Friday.
The pressure is still on for power and water entities to reach an agreement, and both sides have committed to formulate a workable plan by mid-January, when Congress begins its 1989 business, Bentley said.
Don Christiansen, general manager of the Central Utah Water Conservancy District, conducted Friday's meeting of Upper Colorado River commissioners, CUP officials and public power representatives and said the group likely will meet more than once a month between now and January.
"All of the parties are now to the realization and conclusion that this is an issue that will stay with us. We must stay with the issue and work it out," he said.
The next meeting is scheduled Sept. 1 in Las Vegas. An agenda committee that includes representatives of each of the interests and the Bureau of Reclamation will gather a list of hangups so the group can dissect the concerns at that meeting, Christiansen said.