Four members of the House of Representatives are promoting a bill to facilitate development of the Bear River and believe their proposal is likely to clear legislative hurdles faster than a similar Senate bill.
Rep. Lee Allen, D-Tremonton, said his bill, HB214, would create a task force to study issues prefatory to developing the Bear River and would do "almost the same stuff with similar players" as a measure introduced earlier by Sen. Fred W. Finlin-son, R-Salt Lake.At a Tuesday press conference, Allen said he heard Finlinson's bill got "bogged down" so he introduced his own version in the House. The House bill sets up the commission differently than the Senate bill and looks after the interest of the people in Davis and Weber counties better, he said.
Residents of northern Utah are anxious to develop the river, which he called Utah's "last watering hole that is not fully developed."
Work needs to start now so the process of developing financing, clearing environmental hurdles and doing engineering work can be taken care of and construction begun so new supplies of culinary water will be available when they are needed, he said.
House Natural Resources and Energy Committee Chairman Evan L. Olsen, R-Young Ward, is a co-sponsor of the bill and said the process leading up to actual water deliveries could take as long as 10 years. He would like to see the Legislature start putting $20 million each year into a Bear River development fund so construction could be paid for without bonding.
The locations for five proposed dams and other developments that would be needed to channel as much as 395,000 acre-feet of Bear River water to northern Utah communities and the Wasatch Front has essentially been finished, Olson said.
Allen said he would consider Fin-linson's bill if it comes to the House for a vote before the House bill.
The Legislature took a first step toward developing the Bear during the 1988 session when it created a provision that allowed conservancy districts to sell water outside their boundaries. In 1987, water officials from Salt Lake County asked the Board of Water Resources to commit $50,000 to initiating development on the Bear River.