Sen. Jake Garn, R-Utah, will try to add the Strawberry water users' land swap to a House-passed Central Utah Water project bill in the Senate.
Garn also said Wednesday that he believes a final compromise on CUP will require that all users - of drinking water, irrigation water, electric power, and hikers and fly fishermen, will have to pay for the costs of completing the project."Mechanisms are already in place" for user fees, Garn said at a Capitol press conference. He listed fishing licenses, fees for the use of the national parks and duck hunting stamps as examples of how recreation users are assessed to cover government costs of providing those benefits.
"Environmentalists, as well as the others who get project benefits, will have to pay for them," Garn explained.
Although putting the Strawberry agreement on the measure will send it back to the House - adding a small risk that it could get lost in the end-of-session rush, Garn said he had agreement from Western members of Congress to accept the non-controversial addition to the $45.4 million reauthorization of the Colorado River Storage Project Act.
The amount, a fraction of that originally sought by Utah members of Congress, would keep the Central Utah water project alive through fiscal year 1990.
In the House, Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, managed the bill on the floor during a brief and friendly debate. He described the measure as a stopgap to carry CUP until comprehensive legislation to authorize the remaining cost can be worked out with competing interests.
Owens said on the floor that "we are almost there in our negotiations," but added that "time has run out on the 100th Congress to pass a larger bill."
He later said that although Upper Colorado Basin commissioners seem close to an agreement on future project financing, Arizona, a lower-basin state, is still opposed.
"I'm not sure what to do about that," he said. Arizona, he observed, would pay higher power rates from CRSP dams without gaining anything in return.
Rep. Howard Nielson, R-Utah, said that he was not so sure the negotiations were "almost there."
Nielson supported the bill, but noted that the larger version faces difficulties next session.
Rep. John Rhodes, R-Ariz., who supported the $45.4 million bill, said he would not back a larger version "until several concerns are resolved."
Garn said on Wednesday that there was "plenty of blame to go around" for the failure of the Utah delegation to pass a full CUP reauthorization this year, but he singled out what he called Owens'pushing of public power groups too far.
He said Owens created "a lot of misunderstanding" and polarized those groups' opposition to the compromise bill.