A California drought relief bill passed Wednesday by the House Interior Committee would bar the state from taking water rights belonging to Utah.
"Along with my colleagues from Western states, I supported language which guarantees that California cannot supersede Utah's claim for water from the Colorado River," said Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, a committee member."This language also allows Utah to take part in the drought relief program if the need a-rises," Owens said.
The bill, however, would help states form and fund "water banks" to sell and transport water to drought-stricken areas from outside areas with surpluses.
The bill authorizes spending only a relatively small $30 million, but allows the Interior Department to undertake minor projects, such as drilling wells, to help relieve the drought.
A provision also requires the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to study and develop drought contingency plans with state and local officials for the short and long term.
"This drought relief bill will give Utah greater flexibility to manage its water resources in the future," Owens said. Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah, is also a member of the committee.
The drought bill, passed in committee on a voice vote, now goes to the full House.