Central Utah Water Conservancy District officials were meeting Wednesday in St. George with leaders from the Ute Indian Tribe in what may be the last round of discussions on the Uintah Basin Replacement Project.

With little time left, myriad questions still remain on water delivery, repayment costs and government involvement in the two massive water storage projects planned for Duchesne and Uintah counties.The tribe, and all other Uintah Basin water users, have just a few weeks remaining to sign up for the stored water if the two proposed multimillion-dollar Uintah and Upalco units are to survive.

In all likelihood, the success or failure of the two units will ultimately hinge on whether the Ute Tribe lends its support, said one water official.

Raymond Murray, tribal Business Committee member, said the tribe has yet to be given enough information from water conservancy district officials to determine whether the project will benefit them.

"We haven't really decided what the tribe is going to get, or what the benefits are," Murray said. "The tribe sat back for years and did nothing; now it's down to the wire, and we're still going back and forth until we find out what will work."

Murray said all Uintah Basin water users will have to lobby Congress together to obtain the funding in the event they petition for 90 percent of available storage water and agree to repayment costs, so it stands to reason they should be working together at this point as well.

"We all have to lobby for the money, we have to do this jointly. Just because we want this doesn't mean Congress is going to give it to us."

The question of just how the Uintah Basin will pay for its share of the $200 million-plus water projects is just one of many that remain unanswered, said Terry Holzworth, project manager. A large portion of the repayment costs will fall on water users themselves, but even those charges won't pay the bill in full.

Larry Ross, Duchesne County Commission chairman, said the county continues to back the projects, even though they will bring very little in terms of "new water" through storage. But Ross said the economic benefits will be substantial, particularly on the Upalco Unit.

"Both are positive for the tribe, and both projects can be positive for everyone if the agreements and contracts can be reached to qualify government management of distribution," Ross said.

In order to have the Uintah and Upalco Units considered for funding by Congress, a Record of Decision must first be obtained from the Department of the Interior, and then funding requests should be submitted by June 30.

"We're still saying that goal of June 30 is still there, but if we don't make it, we'll have to be a write-in, rather than being part of the budget," Holzworth said, adding that the Central Utah Project "was littered with funding write-ins."