The Senate approved a major spending bill late Dec. 20, by a vote of 76 to 17, which will fund continued operation of the federal government for the next fiscal year and includes over $290 million for Utah projects requested by Senator Bob Bennett (R-Utah), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
"After months of debate and consideration in the Senate, I am happy to announce that many critical projects in Utah will be funded this coming year," said Bennett. "I am particularly pleased we are able to provide necessary funding for our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. We continue to see strides of progress in the Middle East and these funds are important for that ongoing, but slow progress."
In early November, Congress passed the Fiscal Year 2008 Department of Defense Appropriations Act. The remaining 11 appropriations bills have been combined in an omnibus bill. Since the start of the new fiscal year on October 1, continued operations of the federal departments have been funded through continuing resolutions.
Deep coal mining study $1 million
Bennett, along with Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), included funding for a study to be conducted by the Department of Health and Human Services, University of Utah, and West Virginia University that will look at practices and safety implications of mining below 1,500 feet. Deep mining is extremely important to Utah's coal industry, but the Crandall Canyon Mine Disaster in August shed light on the need for more information on this practice.
Rural Utah 595 water program $9.8 million
This program, in its fourth year, will significantly help a number of rural Utah communities with water infrastructure improvements. Over the past four years, Bennett has secured $11 million for communities throughout the state. All cities and counties outside of the Wasatch Front and St. George are eligible for the program, and may use funds for wastewater treatment facility renovations and construction, enhancement of drinking water supply, and other water infrastructure improvements.
Bennett authored the 2003 legislation that formed the Utah Environmental Infrastructure and Resource Protection and Development Program and authorized the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to use up to $25 million to help develop water systems in small communities. Congress must approve funding for the program each year. The federal share of 75 percent is matched by a local share of 25 percent. This year Bennett successfully included language to increase the Rural Utah 595 Water Program authorization from $25 million to $50 million.
"This program has been extremely successful in Utah, helping our small communities develop cleaner water supplies and construct new water projects that would not have been possible without these funds," said Bennett.
Rural Water Technology Alliance $491,000
This technology has been installed in Duchesne County, Upper and Lower Sevier Water Districts, Bear River, and Emery County. The funding will be used to further develop technology to provide real-time monitoring of canals and provide water level information online to the public.