A measure to complete the Central Utah Project at a cost of just under $900 million sailed through a House subcommittee Wednesday.
Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, said there was complete agreement on the bill within the Utah delegation except for language about the degree of local authority over a proposed environmental conservation and rehabilitation commission.An aide to Rep. Bill Orton, D-Utah, said Orton has substantial differences with the issue over local input to the conservation and rehabilitation commission.
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.
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, which was also made part of the omnibus measure.
While the CUP portion of the big bill raised no controversy within the House Water and Power subcommittee, there appear to be some bumps in the road the overall bill must follow in Congress. Opponents of reclamation reform challenged 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 House Interior 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.