When you can't even agree who will be on the committee to study something, you know you've got a political dogfight on your hands.
And there's no question lawmakers recognize they have a monumental dogfight on their hands when it comes to how water from the Bear River - the last major undeveloped fresh water source in Utah - will be developed."They (legislators along the Wasatch Front) are trying a power play for our water," said Rep. Lee Allen, R-Tremonton. "It's our water and we don't want Salt Lake taking our water. We can't have Salt Lake taking our water or any part of it. It's our life blood."
Feelings run strong on the issue, and as a result, a proposed bill creating a committee to study development of Bear River water was anything but routine. The bill called for various city, county and state officials from both the Wasatch Front and northern Utah to be represented, as well as three senators and three representatives.
Allen, fearing the general wording of the bill was intended to weigh the committee in favor of Wasatch Front lawmakers, tried to amend the bill to specify that two-thirds of the lawmakers had to be from northern Utah.
His amendment was defeated. A compromise amendment passed allowing two of the three representatives to be from northern Utah as well as one of the three senators.
"I'm not satisfied," said Allen, "but more so than I would have been with all the weight on the end of the Wasatch Front."
Northern Utahns are fearful that the committee, which would be appointed by Gov. Norm Bangerter, will still be weighed in favor of Wasatch Front officials by a three- or four-vote margin. And the water needs of the Wasatch Front are different than those in northern Utah.
"It's our water," he said. "We want our hand on the switch. We want the Wasatch Front to deal with us, not just take it."
The development of Bear River water is seen as the key to economic expansion in northern Utah, as well as the continued vitality of the agriculture industry.
"There might be some hard-fought battles over water," Allen promised. "It's very important to us. It's the key to our whole future."
The proposed bill will now be considered by a legislative committee during the 1989 session.