The House Water and Power subcommittee voted Wednesday to report an omnibus reclamation bill to the full Interior Committee.
The subcommittee measure contains funding re-authorization to complete the Central Utah Reclamation Project at a cost just under $900 million.The CUP measure and 23 other water projects were combined in what is being called "the mother of all reclamation bills." The huge bill was assembled by Acting Interior Committee Chairman George Miller, D-Calif., in order to get the support of other members of Congress for his reclamation reform bill, also made part of the omnibus measure.
The CUP section sailed through the subcommittee without a murmur. Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, said there was complete agreement on the bill within the Utah delegation except for language in Section 301 which spells out the amount of local authority over the proposed environmental conservation and rehabilitation commission.
Rep. Bill Orton, D-Utah, called the issue "important," and an Orton aide said the differences Orton has over local input to the commission were substantial.
Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah, said he and Owens were in agreement on language they want to see written into the measure to ensure local influence in commission decisions.
While the CUP portion of the big bill raised no controversy within the subcommittee, the rails the overall bill must run on in Congress appeared to have some bumps in them. Opponents of reclamation reform challenged Chairman Miller's bill and missed striking it from the omnibus measure by only a 14-11 roll-call margin.
Rep. Richard Lehman, D-Calif., who led the attack on Reclamation Reform, promised another fight in the full committee and on the House floor.
Rep. John Rhodes, R-Ariz., attempted to separate a bill of his to protect the Grand Canyon from Colorado River flows, arguing that the omnibus bill "may get bogged down in the Senate" on reclamation reform issues. Miller, however, was able to keep the Rhodes bill in the package on a 14-11 vote.
Rhodes did win by a 13-11 roll call his effort to have the $65 million costs of the environmental impact study and experimental flow reduction on the Colorado River made "non-reimbursable" by power users. He noted that Owens made the costs of environmental work in CUP non-reimbursable and challenged the Utah Democrat to support the same for the Grand Canyon work.
Owens said it was a "tough vote," but voted against the Rhodes measure.
Earlier the full House Interior Committee approved a bill to give Indian tribal courts jurisdiction over Indians from other tribes in certain violations including drunken driving.