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UTAH WATER OFFICIALS RACING THE CLOCK TO REDRAFT CUP BILL

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Utah water officials labored Monday night in a marathon attempt to come to yet another agreement on the Central Utah Project. The deadline this time is Wednesday, when the House Water, Power and Offshore Energy Resources subcommittee is to take up the CUP reauthorization bill.

Aides from Salt Lake City, Sandy, Salt Lake County, the Central Utah Water Conservancy District, the state, Utah and national environmental groups and the five Utah congressional offices also worked over the weekend to redraft the CUP bill to make it meet conflicting demands from the Bush administration and the House subcommittee.They were working with vague statements from both the administration and subcommittee Chairman George Miller, D-Calif., to accept plans for the irrigation portions of CUP, subject to a number of caveats on cost and the environment.

Reclamation Commissioner Dennis B. Underwood wrote Miller on Friday that the "administration expects to support an irrigation and drainage system as part of the legislation . . . a number of technical issues and . . . policy" issues are resolved.

The Underwood letter mentioned specifically cost sharing, repayment terms and environmental compliance.

According to Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, Miller made a deal to accept the irrigation and drainage portion of the bill in exchange for environmental-mitigation features acceptable to environmental groups. A Miller aide, Dan Beard, said however that Miller made no commitment to the irrigation and drainage portions, but might be willing to look at that part of the bill.

Beard called the Underwood letter itself "no commitment from the administration.

Owens said the negotiators had reached near agreement on water conservation measures environmental groups had demanded and that local officials had previously rejected. He released no details.