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Fixing one word in Utah canal pact requires an act of Congress

Published December 4, 2013 7:59 am

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This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Washington • Don't call it a canal, even though it was for years.

It's a "water conveyance facility," formerly known as the Provo Reservoir Canal.

It's a minor, seemingly insignificant detail, but one that will take an act of Congress to fix.

It began about nine years ago when federal lawmakers passed a law that would allow the Provo River Water Users Association to take control of the canal. Simply put, the association would pay the feds for the construction of the waterway, then enclose the 21-mile flow to keep out debris and make it safer. But when you enclose a canal, it's no longer a canal. It's an aqueduct. And no duty-bound, technicality-loving government bureaucrat could read a law that says to sell the canal when, of course, it's now an aqueduct.

So, to make everyone happy, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, is pushing legislation to change the law to read "water conveyance facility" and scratch the canal wording.

"It seems like silly Washington, D.C., legalese," Chaffetz said, "but that's what we're here to do."

The House on Tuesday passed Chaffetz's legislation — by a whopping 406-0 vote — and the legislation now awaits Senate action. It's not controversial, obviously, but in a Congress that's passed only 56 bills this year, it may not zoom through.

When the Senate passes the legislation — Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, has introduced a companion bill — the association will pay the Bureau of Reclamation $700,000 to fully own the … water conveyance facility. The association has already paid $150 million to enclose the canal in 10½-foot diameter piping and cover its path with a trail for outdoor enthusiasts.

"We're anxious to get it in local hands," said Keith Denos, the association's general manager.

Soon.

But first, the Senate has to bring up the bill, and pass it, then President Barack Obama has to sign it. Then, perhaps, the federal government can do what it was told nine years ago to do. Or, at least, that's the expectation.

"I hope this is the only thing," Denos said. "I hope they don't come up with something else."

tburr@sltrib.com