The U.S. Senate on Friday unanimously approved $63 million in stop-gap funding to keep the Central Utah Project alive for another year - $18 million more than the House approved two weeks ago.
But the CUP's long-winding path through Congress isn't over yet - and its future may become tied to unrelated legislation to expand a national park in Samoa, fund Mississippi River projects and line leaky canals.That's because when the House votes next week to approve money added by the Senate, the CUP legislation is expected to become a "pack-horse bill" - meaning three or four more controversial bills may be attached to it in hopes the less controversial CUP bill will carry them to more easy approval.
"But we have been assured that nothing will be put on the bill that will threaten its passage," said Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah. He said the assurances came from House Water and Power Resources Subcommittee Chairman George Miller, D-Calif., and House Interior Committee Chairman Morris Udall, D-Ariz.
Owens said he has heard that bills to be attached deal with the Samoa park, the John Muir Memorial, Mississippi River projects and lining of a canal.
The vote in the House is expected on Tuesday. But Robert B. Hilbert, chairman of the Central Utah Water Conservancy District (the local agency that delivers water from completed CUP features) said he still worries that time is running out in the session, and that Congress could adjorn for the election season before the CUP re-authorization is finally approved.
The passage through the Senate was easy Friday - it came on unanimous consent, and was shepherded by Sen. Jake Garn, R-Utah.
Garn added the extra $18 million to settle grazing and other claims that the Strawberry Water Users Association had on land around Strawberry Reservoir. The settlement, if given final approval, would give management of 56,775 acres for grazing, recreation and wildlife to the U.S. Forest Service.
Also, $3 million of the extra money is to rehabilitate pastures in the Strawberry Valley.
Garn said his office and Rep. Howard Nielson, R-Utah, have worked for two years to find a settlement with the Strawberry Water Users Association about who really has rights to the land.
While the action in the Senate on Friday was smooth, the CUP bill has been plagued with controversy this year.
Disagreements among water users, public power companies, environmentalists and others about what portions of the project should survive and how to finance them almost killed the bill when it was before the House Interior Committee.
But when the groups agreed to try to work out their differences during the next year, the House approved $45.4 million in stop-gap funding - much less than the $754 million called for in the original bill introduced by Owens.
That $45 million plus unused money left from previous allocations should allow construction on the CUP's Bonneville Unit to continue through fiscal year 1990. That massive unit is designed to bring water from eastern Utah through a system of dams and aqueducts to the Wasatch Front.