CONGRESSWOMAN ELISE STEFANIK
On Monday, October 24, 2011, the House is scheduled to consider H.R. 461 under a suspension of the rules requiring a two-thirds majority vote for approval. H.R. 461 was introduced by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) on January 26, 2011, and was referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources, which reported the bill, with an amendment, by unanimous consent on July 20, 2011.
H.R. 461 would direct the Secretary of the Interior, acting through the Bureau of Reclamation, to transfer the title of the electric distribution system located in Spanish Fork, Utah, to the South Utah Valley Electric Service District. Under H.R. 461, the Bureau of Reclamation would discontinue oversight of the facilities. In addition, the Bureau of Reclamation would no longer collect licensing fees from utilities seeking easements to cross those federal lands. According to CBO, the loss of those collections would have no significant net impact on the federal budget.
According to House Report 112-217, the Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) initiated the development of the Strawberry Valley Project (SVP) in Utah in 1906. Today, the SVP includes the Strawberry Dam and Reservoir, several diversion dams, canals, three power plants and a 296-mile long electric transmission and distribution system. The Strawberry Water Users Association (SWUA), which operated the SVP until 1986 and repaid all applicable construction costs of the electricity distribution system to the federal government, also owned a portion of that system.
In 1986, SWUA sold its portion of the electric distribution system to the South Utah Valley Electric Service District (SESD). Since there was a mix of federal and non-federal ownership of the electricity distribution system, Reclamation approved the sale only on the condition that the sale be limited to those portions that were not part of the original SVP or were not constructed on federal lands or easements. At the time, Reclamation, SWUA and the SESD believed that most of the distribution system was non-federal. However, Reclamation recently determined that most of the distribution system was built on federal easements acquired early in the SVP history. Reclamation, as a result, now believes that most of the distribution system still belongs to the federal government. It has not quantified how much of the system it owns, however, due to inadequate paperwork. The federal government's determination has created system management and ownership uncertainty since it is unclear to either SESD or Reclamation what entity owns which portions of the electric distribution system. H.R. 461’s title transfer would resolve this confusion by placing the entire system in local ownership.
According to CBO, implementing H.R. 461 “would have no significant net impact on the federal budget.”