Sen. Jake Garn, R-Utah, proposed to a Senate subcommittee Thursday a rewritten bill to reauthorize the Bonneville Unit of the Central Utah Water Project with a reduced federal cost and many features sought by environmentalists.
Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, who had offered his own version of a revised bill, appeared at the hearing and supported most of Garn's proposals. Owens, however, wants an environmental commission to continue after the project is completed and wants to get $15 million a year out of Upper Colorado Basin power revenues to support it.Owens' version of the bill is to be marked up by the House Irrigation and Reclamation Subcommittee on Wednesday, he said.
The Garn measure would increase the congressional authorization for CUP by $394 million, $360 million less than Owens, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Garn proposed last fall. The largest part of the reduction would come through elimination of direct federal funding of irrigation and drainage features of the project.
Garn proposed earlier that bonds be sold by the Central Utah Water Conservancy District to finance the irrigation and drainage features. The bonds would have to be repaid out of Colorado River Basin Fund revenues. A major Diamond Fork hydroelectric power plant, considered earlier to finance the bonds, was dropped from the Garn proposal because its power would be too expensive to sell except through the Upper Basin Power Marketing Area, and power users have objected to its price. It would be cheaper for the power users, Garn said, to use some of the revenues of Glen Canyon and Flaming Gorge dams than to build Diamond Fork.
A smaller Diamond Fork power plant would still be built to provide electricity for project pumping.
The Ute Indians would be guaranteed, through the bill, either construction of a proj-ect to provide them with water, under the deferral agreement the Tribe signed, or the financial equivalent.
The Conservancy District would be granted the right to develop hydropower within the CUP.
The bonds needed to pay for irrigation and drainage features would be amortized over 50 years. They would involve an estimated $280 million for the irrigation portions of the project and could not exceed the $404 million the Bureau of Reclamation has estimated it would spend on those features.
Garn proposed a minimum in-stream flow to maintain fisheries, of 44,000 acre feet per year, with possible shortages below that level to be taken equally by irrigators, municipal and industrial water users, and fishery protection.
He offered a state-controlled wildlife refuge at Goshen Bay and Benjamin Slough, with the proviso that adjoining farms not be restricted in the use of pesticides and other agricultural practices.
Salinity-control projects in the basin would also be authorized in the bill.
The plan adopted by the Bureau of Reclamation to mitigate the impact of the project on fish and wildlife would be incorporated in the bill.
Water users at the Strawberry Reservoir would be compensated, under an earlier agreement, for pasture lands they have lost. The water users would also be guaranteed the right to build their own hydropower plant in the future, since they would lose rights in the proposed Diamond Fork plant, which would be abandoned.
Garn's bill would stipulate that a commission set up to oversee environmental work in CUP would go out of business when the proj-ect was substantially complete. The commission, during its life, would not have the right to condemn private property except through an existing government agency. It could not operate as an advocacy group or litigate on its own.
Garn proposed rebuilding the Farnsworth Canal and other features, and studying alternatives to the Upalco dam.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, supported the measure, saying "the promise and commitment (o Utah farmers and the Ute Tribe) must not be overlooked."
Owens' bill would protect fish from low flows in drought years by allocating shortages of water to irrigation users. It would also provide that maintenance of mitigation projects be covered from Upper Basin power money.