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Washington • The Senate approved a land exchange in Utah and a minor correction to a law with big implications for the Provo River Water Users Association during a flurry of activity Wednesday, and the two bills are now headed to President Barack Obama for his signature.
On a voice vote, the Senate agreed to exchange 20,000 acres of state-held mineral rights in the Hill Creek Extension of the Uintah and Ouray Indian Reservation for mineral rights in another area of the reservation. The move preserves cultural lands while opening up the other area for energy development. The House passed that legislation a year ago.
"I am pleased that we are finally able to get this long-sought exchange to the president's desk," said Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, the sponsor of the bill with Sen. Orrin Hatch. "Today, that's not such an easy endeavor."
The bill, supported by all of Utah's federal delegation, the Ute Tribe and The Wilderness Society, will help generate revenue for Utah schools with oil and gas royalties, Bishop noted.
A separate measure approved by the Senate clarifies a 2004 law authorizing the Bureau of Reclamation to transfer ownership of the Provo Reservoir Canal to the water-users association. Since the enactment of the old law, the canal was enclosed and no longer considered by the federal government to be a canal.
The new bill, sponsored by Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, replaces the word canal with the phrase "water conveyance facility historically known as the Provo Reservoir Canal."
"This bill solidifies and completes the transfer as originally intended," Chaffetz said in a statement.
Obama is expected to sign both bills.