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Latest News & Quarterly Newsletters: E-Newsletter Winter 2017

2017 Legislative Update

Wednesday, February 15, 2017   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Lisa Anderson
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2017 Legislative Update
Todd Marti, Granger-Hunter Improvement District

In case you were wondering, the State of Utah has no plans to start up the Great Salt Lake Pump Station in the next 4-5 years, even with our high snowpack levels.  If you’re too young to understand this, check out http://www.water.utah.gov/GSL/. This will have to wait until water can actually be seen with binoculars from the pump station. Senate Bill 113 would move money to the State Engineer to speed up adjudication in the Salt Lake Valley (to be complete in the next 10-12 years), and Senate Bill 251 would set criteria to have funds released from the Water Infrastructure Restricted Account.

These discussions were some of the highlights at the 2017 AWWA Legislative Update at the Utah State Capitol on February 13th. Attendees from many different municipalities and agencies (and those in the AWWA Leadership Forum) were treated to multiple guest speakers (including one Legislator) highlighting some of the main topics coming up during the 2017 Utah Legislative Session.

Christine Finlinson, Assistant General Manager of Central Utah Water Conservancy District, introduced attendees to the legislative process (including the challenges of parking during the Legislative Session). She discussed the 38-15-1 rule (38 Representatives, 15 Senators and 1 Governor must approve to pass a bill) and reminded us that the Governor does not set the budget, the Legislature does.

Fred Finlinson discussed the national push by ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) to restrict the taxing authority of local districts. This is currently being promoted by Sen. Lincoln Fillmore in SB 94, a compromise bill in which Board Members would have to report tax rate increases to their appointing authority.

Next, Walt Baker, Director of the Utah Division of Water Quality, reminded us that the Division’s main foci are: 1) excessive nutrients, 2) the Great Salt Lake Watershed, and 3) spills. DWQ is requesting an additional $123,000 in the budget to hire two seasonal employees to monitor algal blooms throughout the State and to help prevent and monitor spills like the one at Tibble Creek.

Eric Millis, Director of the Division of Water Resources, discussed their request for additional funds for water conservation programs (including more rebates). HB 304 (Water use for irrigation in industrial areas), SB 113 (adjusting allocation percentages associated with the Water Conservation Development Fund to pay for adjudication), SB 11 (creating the Legislative Water Development Commission), SJR 11 (Urges Congress to complete the C.U.P.), and SB 151 (Property tax to be limited to 15% of total revenue for water providers) were discussed.

Gene Shawcroft, General Manager of the Central Utah Water Conservancy District, discussed the AWWA Fly-in and SB 251, which establishes criteria for utilizing the Water Infrastructure Restricted Account established by SB 80 last year, which may include use for construction of the Lake Powell Pipeline.

Marie Owens, Director of the Utah Division of Drinking Water (as of 3 Weeks ago.  Congratulations!), discussed the Division’s push to complete a study of actual metered water use in various areas throughout the state using smart meters, reminded us of the importance of keeping drinking water clean, and how Davis Bacon wages (sometimes known as Kevin Bacon wages) can make constructing projects with federal money difficult.

Kent Jones, Utah State Engineer, discussed many various pieces of legislation being tracked, including HB 84 (Nonuse extension limits), HB 118 (State Engineer duties), HB 181 (fees), HB 180 (forms), HB 225 (Procurement of river commissioners), HB 301 (Canal safety), SB 63 (Water company shares), and SB 113.

Representative Joel Briscoe (D, SLC), currently in his seventh year, discussed the importance of water and how Utah will have to adapt to hotter summers, more rain, and less snow.

We would like to thank all those who were able to attend and present on the issues, and the Legislative Affairs Committee and AWWA staff for getting this year’s event organized. Plan on attending next year to get your front row seats to the “Guess which legislator is going to cancel at the last minute” game!


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