Utah County has ceded its interest in a disputed road over to the federal government and won't join in a suit the U.S. attorney's office filed against former gubernatorial candidate Merrill A. Cook and one of his companies.

In 1986, the U.S. attorney's office, acting for the Federal Aviation Administration, sued Cook Slurry Co., saying it damaged the agency's private road on Lake Mountain in western Utah County. It asked for $47,000 to repair damage caused by heavy equipment.The FAA also wants the company banned from using the three-mile route.

But Cook countered that the road has been a public right of way since the 19th century, and that his company spent $100,000 to improve it when the slurry firm's trucks used the route from 1978 to 1983.

Monday afternoon, U.S. District Court Chief Judge Bruce S. Jenkins held a hearing in the matter - one of the last steps before trial.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathleen Barrett said she has notified three private landowners, the state and Utah County about joining the suit, because they have property in the area. The private landowners do not want to get involved in the action, she said.

Utah County deeded over its rights to the federal government, Barrett said.

A state lawyer at the hearing said the Utah Division of State Lands and Forestry has an interest in the title question but not in the damages that the federal government is seeking. He said the state will probably intercede in the suit.

Jenkins scheduled a final pretrial conference for 1:30 p.m. on June 8.