Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, said Friday that he has enough votes to force his controversial Central Utah Project funding bill out of his U.S. House subcommittee, but that next week he expects a consensus with Utah colleagues over the bill.
Owens said he's removing any reference to ongoing mitigation payments in the bill, and that should allow the consensus. He promised an amendment that would require a $3 million yearly mitigation payment after the massive water project is finished in 1996. The money would come out of public power payments generated by hydroelectric plants on the project.Owens wants the $3 million a year to soften the massive water project's impact on the environment.
Owens has been feuding off and on with Sen. Jake Garn and other Republican members of the Utah delegation over how much such mitigation payments should be.
Rep. Howard Nielson, R-Utah, represents the Uintah Basin of eastern Utah. A major part of the CUP is bringing Basin water over the Wasatch Front and into Utah Lake. Basin residents and Ute Indians are concerned about proposed cutbacks in water projects that would restore some water lost in that transfer.
Nielson may well propose amendments to Owens' bill to deal with those Basin concerns, but Owens said he'll fight those amendments.
Owens promised that early next year, should he succeed in re-election, he'll sponsor a separate bill that will deal with the water concerns of Basin residents.