Utah County officials should quit publicly criticizing the Central Utah Project - as they did earlier this week - because that could threaten its funding and completion, Sen. Jake Garn, R-Utah, said Wednesday.

His comments came as Gov. Norm Bangerter and a small army of Utah water officials testified before House and Senate appropriations subcommittees to argue that completion of the CUP and Little Dell Dam projects are essential to future growth.Garn - who was acting chairman of the Senate subcommittee - warned that unless Utah officials show a united front in campaigning for the CUP, its enemies in Congress will use dissent to kill its funding. That's a warning CUP supporters have sounded for decades whenever dissent has arisen.

On Monday, Utah County Commissioner Brent Morris attacked plans to raise the CUP's debt ceiling to complete its irrigation and drainage portions. The current ceiling would allow completion of residential and industrial water projects.

Morris also called for a halt to construction of the Jordanelle Dam on the Provo River near Heber until federal officials determine whether the river provides sufficient water both to fill the new reservoir and to meet current water rights.

That prompted Garn to say, "This water project will not be completed if there is disagreement at home. Our opponents will always grab onto that, and use it as an excuse for not going forward."

He added, "I suggest that they (Utah County officials) be part of the overall team, because if this project is not completed, we all lose. The whole state loses and every county within the district and Utah County and Provo City loses."

He said that's because unless Utah's allotment of Colorado River water is used through the CUP, it simply flows downstream to California. "It doesn't do any good to own it, because California still gets it."

Garn added, "I am sorry to be so harsh . . . but they don't need to threaten, they don't need to intimidate, they don't need to hold public hearings. . . . All they have to do is make a phone call, and the Senate will make sure they get what they are legally entitled to. . . . I haven't spent 21 years of my life to see this project go down the drain over the kind of bickering that is going on."

A long line of other politicians and water officials also praised the CUP in testimony Wednesday and supported Bush administration proposals to give it roughly $120 million for construction during fiscal 1990 - including $80 million for the Jordanelle Dam.

Bangerter testified that recent strong administration support for the CUP could help it be completed by 1995.