Utah's members of Congress report significant progress toward agreement on a bill to reauthorize the Central Utah Proj-ect, but a delegation of Ute Indians is continuing the fight for what it wants from the multibillion-dollar water project.
The five-member delegation from the Ute Indian Tribe, all members of the Ute Business Committee, intends to spend two days in Washington lobbying for support and funding for water-storage projects promised to the tribe under CUP but never built."We want to let them know what our agreement is and what we would like to see and probably let them know that if those aren't met, we may be back to lobby against the CUP," said Ute Chairman Luke Duncan.
The 24-year-old CUP deferral agreement brings water from the Uintah-Ouray Reservation to the Wasatch Front via the upper Stillwater Dam as part of the water project.
In exchange for deferring its rights to the water, the tribe was promised a variety of water storage and irrigation projects but none has ever been built. Last month, the Ute Business Committee declared the 1985 deferral agreement invalid.
In the compromise reached among members of the state's congressional delegation, Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, dropped his insistence in a commission to oversee environmental mitigation work in the entire Upper Colorado River Basin, but the delegation agreed to accept the commission idea if Owens can sell it to lawmakers in the other affected states.
The five agreed to drop a controversial bird refuge in Utah County that Rep. Howard Nielson, R-Utah, has long opposed.
Nielson told the Deseret News that five or six other points are still in disagreement between the four Republicans and Democrat Owens.
The delegation agreed to ask the House Interior Committee to put off a scheduled Oct. 19 hearing on CUP for two or three weeks to allow more time for the Utahns and their staffs to work out a bill they all can agree upon.
The more than hourlong session in the Capitol office of Sen. Jake Garn, R-Utah, was the longest of the year. It was punctuated by several jokes and lacked some of the contentiousness of earlier sessions, members said.
"We generally made good progress," Owens said afterward.