Veto override could mean $30M for Parkites
President George W. Bush suffered the first veto override of his seven-year presidency when the Senate enacted water legislation the president claimed was filled with unnecessary projects.
Park City Mayor Dana Williams praised passage of the bill because delivering needed water to Park City from the Snyderville Basin could cost $40 million, Williams explained. The $23 billion bill funds Army Corps of Engineers projects, such as pipelines and sewage plants that are important to local communities.
"[The bill] has not been passed by the House and Senate for seven years," Williams said. "It’s for water projects all over the country and they have certainly been mounting."
Park City is authorized to receive $30 million from the Water Resources Development Act, he said.
"That does not give us the money. It still has to be funded," Williams said. "But it certainly says, this is a project that is worthy for federal funding."
The funding could help Park City officials secure water through 2020 by building a pipeline to deliver water from the edges of western Summit County. Weber River water would likely travel from Rockport reservoir to a treatment plant at Promontory through an existing pipeline operated by Summit County’s Mountain Regional Water Special Service District.
"While the concerns about too much spending have some merit, our water infrastructure needs help," Congressman Rob Bishop, a Republican who represents Summit County in the U.S. House of Representatives, said Tuesday. "We in the West need to do everything we can to maintain our water supplies and develop our water resources."
Bishop broke ranks from some Republicans by voting to override the president’s veto of the bill.
"The projects in this bill for Park City and the Snyderville Basin are good investments and will make sure the water keeps flowing," the congressman said in a prepared statement sent Tuesday to The Park Record.
The 79-14 vote in the Senate included 34 Republicans who defied the president. Enactment was a foregone conclusion, but it still marked a milestone for a president who spent his first six years with a much friendlier Congress controlled by his Republican Party.
The House voted 361-54 to override the veto last week. Both votes easily exceeded the two-thirds majority needed in each chamber to negate a presidential veto.
"I understand the president’s concern about spending, but this bill is about keeping water flowing to Utahns who live in the second driest state in the union," Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said in a prepared statement Tuesday. "The projects authorized in this bill are what allow Utahns to thrive in the desert."
Construction of the pipeline in Park City could be completed in five years should Congress appropriate funds, said Jerry Gibbs, director of Park City Public Works.
"The camel’s got its nose under the tent now. This is when our work starts in getting the project defined and getting appropriations," Gibbs said in a telephone interview.
Officials will discuss a plan to deliver 2,500 acre-feet of water into Park City, Mayor Williams said, adding that the water could fully supply the city in the future.
Park City cooperated with Summit County to purchase several thousand acre-feet from the Weber Basin Water Conservancy District in the mid-1990s. The city agreed to deliver the water through an expanded version of the existing Lost Creek Canyon Pipeline.
Working with Summit County will help reduce the cost of the project that could have exceeded $50 million, Williams said.
"The authorization doesn’t guarantee money. It just says we’re eligible," Gibbs said. "We need more water and we need to build this project whether we have an appropriation or not."
Impact fees collected on new development could cover the cost of the first phase of construction, Gibbs said.
"What it doesn’t do is provide a quick enough funding stream," he said, adding that officials could leverage revenue from impact fees with bond proceeds. "What happens if there is a downturn in the economy and impact fees drop off? How do you cover the cost of the bond?" The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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