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Politics & Government

Utah Legislative Leaders Propose Bill To Create Colorado River Authority

A photo of the Colorado River.
Linde Cater
/
National Park Service
The Colorado River’s flows are divided up among seven western states.

Republican legislative leaders have proposed a bill to create the Utah Colorado River Authority. The six member commission would be charged with negotiating the state’s rights to the dwindling river.

House Speaker Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, and Senate President Stuart Adams, R-Layton, are the sponsors. Wilson said other Colorado River basin states already have commissions like this, and that Utah is at a disadvantage.

“We are outmatched and outgunned right now by those that are using the majority of the water in the river, which is lower basin states,” Wilson said at a House Natural Resources Committee hearing. “We absolutely want to live up to the agreements that have been made to those states. But at the same time, our responsibility as elected officials in Utah is to protect the interests of Utah.”

The bill would also allow the new authority to hold closed door meetings when discussing negotiations and judicial proceedings. Those in favor of the bill said that’s to protect the state’s negotiating strategies.

But Deeda Seed, with the Center for Biological Diversity, said she’s concerned about the public — and other states — being shut out.

“We're all in it together,” Seed said during the hearing. “There isn't going to be a way for Utah to one up the other states or the other states to one up us. Where goes the Colorado [River], so goes all of us in terms of our ability to have thriving communities.”

The proposed authority would cost $9 million to start. It was approved by the House committee 11-2.

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