SALT LAKE CITY — The U.S. House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday approved $15 million in construction funding for the Central Utah Project, the state’s largest water resource development program, at the behest of Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah.
If that funding level, which represents a $5 million increase over last year, is approved by Congress and maintained in future years, officials say the 62-year-old project could be completed within five years.
“Many Utahns don’t realize that the water coming out of their tap has traveled hundreds of miles to get there as part of the Central Utah Project,” Gene Shawcroft, general manager for the Central Utah Water Conservancy District, said in a statement. “It’s crucial that we finish what we started to ensure adequate water supply for our booming population.”
The Central Utah Project, which started in partnership with the federal government in 1956 to meet Utah’s long-term water needs, captures a large portion of the Beehive State’s share of Colorado River water from the Uinta Basin and moves it through several reservoirs to eight counties along the Wasatch Front and Central Utah.
Each year, the system delivers more than 350,000 acre feet of water (equivalent to filling the state Capitol with water 167 times) that is critical for the growth Utah has seen and will continue to see over the next several decades.
While the federal government is contractually obligated to fund a portion of the construction that will all be repaid by water users, cuts in federal funding forced the Central Utah Water Conservancy District to tap its own resources to keep the project moving. With one last pipeline left to build to finish the project, construction funding was cut to zero during the Obama administration. Since 2012, Utah’s congressional delegation has united to fight to restore construction funding incrementally.
“As Utah’s only member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, Congressman Stewart has been an important leader and advocate of the project,” Shawcroft said. “We thank him for his hard work to restore these funds that are so vital to Utah’s future. This increase represents a significant comeback for a project that was facing real uncertainty and delay due to federal funding cuts.”