A Central Utah Project official Thursday expressed optimism that a financing method for the CUP's irrigation system will be before Congress this year, despite the recent demise of a financing plan that was 10 months in the works.

Don Christiansen, general manager of the Central Utah Water Conservancy District, said Utah's congressional delegation is also more solidly behind the proposed irrigation project now than it has ever been.The plan that failed would have involved a 6-mill rate increase for public power companies in exchange for contract allowances with the federal government that would have saved them about 6 mills. The rate hike would have been used to finance the $300 million irrigation feature proposed by the CUP that would have carried Strawberry Reservoir water as far south as Yuba Reservoir.

But the deal fell through when only one of dozens of members of the Colorado River Energy Distributors Association balked at the plan two weeks ago. But Christiansen told the conservancy district board he and other negotiators had not burned any bridges or stepped on any toes as of the time the negotiations failed.

"There is still the possibility of working with some members of CREDA," he said. "We have had an invitation from a Utah public power group to see if they could assist us. We're very encouraged that they have not chosen to abandon us."

The failed financing plan involved all five states in the Upper Colorado River Basin. The company that balked was in Colorado.

"I feel comfortable that there are three or four possibilities, including traditional financing," he said.

The traditional financing he spoke of involves annual funding from Congress that would not have to be reimbursed locally. But the sentiment in Congress against the continued funding of massive federal water projects is exactly what sent Utah water officials looking for an alternative plan.

"We're going to build the system, I just can't tell you how we're going to finance it."