Support for increased Central Utah Proj-ect spending was expressed Monday by Utah's entire congressional delegation, Gov. Norm Bangerter and other state water officials.
Testifying at a House subcommittee hearing conducted in Salt Lake City by subcommittee chairman George Miller, D-Calif., the officials said they support a bill proposed by Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, that would increase the congressionally mandated spending ceiling for the Colorado River Storage Project by $565.4 million.The CUP's $1.9 billion Bonneville Unit is the largest single CRSP feature, and plans to finish the CUP were the major points of Owens' bill discussed at the Monday hearing.
The measure is designed as a substitute for a bill introduced last fall that called for a $754 million increase, approximately $200 million more than the delegation is now requesting.
While Republican members of the delegation were united in supporting the new bill and financial request proposed by Owens, they were unanimous in their objection to two provisions of the bill. One calls for a CRSP-wide review, conducted by the National Academy of Sciences, of water storage and power generating policies. The other would establish a federal commission that would perpetually administer fish and wildlife mitigation funds. The commission would cost $15 million annually to operate after CUP construction is finished.
Sens. Jake Garn and Orrin Hatch, and Reps. Jim Hansen and Howard Nielson all said a CRSP review of power generation would probably increase power rates. All four said they could support the formation of a commission to administer fish and wildlife mitigation funds, but they believe the commission's authority should be restricted to eliminate its power of imminent domain. They also believe the commission should be disbanded after CUP construction is complete, rather than having it be a continuing agency that would be financed with $15 million annually from CRSP power revenues.
Bangerter went one step further. State officials, he said, don't want to see a fish and wildlife commission formed at all. "We feel establishment of a new entity to oversee environmental features of the CUP would be duplicative, disruptive and, in fact, counterproductive."
Hatch, Garn and Nielson agreed they would rather not have such a commission formed, but said they were willing to compromise as long as the commission did not continue after the project as completed.
The Central Utah Water Conservancy District, which is the state sponsor for the CUP, supports the creation of the commission, "but we are also concerned about the continuation of the commission after the completion of the project," said Robert B. Hilbert, district board president.
Hilbert said the commission would be accepted by environmentalists who believe spending for environmental concerns have lagged during the length of CUP construction.
Sheldon Eppich, representing the Utah Wildlife Federation, said he has been lobbying for changes in the project for many years. Earlier environmental support for the CUP eroded as construction continued, he said.
He said the CUP was conceived when the exploitation of the environment was acceptable. Changes proposed by Owens' legislation would allay many of environmental problems, Eppich said, especially through the creation of the wildlife commission.
Fred Reimherr, representing the Stonefly Society, said Owens' bill is vital to Utah's economic health. The proposed commission is "vitally important" and is a starting point for making up lost ground on environmental issues. "There are a number of serious (environmental) problems in northern Utah that demand correction."
Reimherr supported allowing the commission to have the power to acquire water rights to support stream flows.
Ownership of new water rights should be jointly owned by the commission and the conservancy district, with the commission having power to control where the water was used.