One federal government agency's action of being a stickler for exact language in the law has forced the need for a bill that changes one word in U.S. code that deals with the Provo River Canal.

On Tuesday, the U.S. House of Representatives considered and passed legislation sponsored by Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, that changes the word "canal" in the law to "water conveyance facility historically known as the Provo Reservoir Canal."

"It truly is a technical fix," said Chaffetz.

The need for the change comes from a law passed in 2004 that was supposed to transfer ownership of the canal to the Provo River Water Users Association. At the time, the association wanted to enclose the 21-mile-long canal, which it has since done, but the association also wanted to obtain the title of the canal.

Congress approved the title transfer, but since the canal now has been enclosed it is no longer a canal and the Bureau of Reclamation says technically it cannot transfer the title of the canal since it is now a pipeline.

Chaffetz's expects that his legislation will now appease the bureaucrats and allow for the title transfer to move forward.

"Hats off to Chris Cannon for pushing that bill through then," said Chaffetz. "It was a good bill that he pushed. I don't think it could have been anticipated that this would have happened."

The proposal now moves forward to be considered by the Senate. Chaffetz noted while the bill is technical, passed unanimously with bipartisan support, and has no hint of political charge to it, he said he has no idea how quickly the Senate will move on it. He observed that nothing right now is easy to get passed through the Senate.

Representatives with the Provo River Water Users Association said they have their fingers crossed that the bill will move forward soon.

"I think everyone can see it is a noncontroversial technical correction that has no impact on the politics of the day," said Keith Denos, general manager of the association.

Once the legislation is approved, the association will pay $700,000 to the federal government. By the time the transaction is complete, the association will have repaid the government for original construction costs of the canal and then obtain ownership of the canal.

-- Billy Hesterman covers the Utah State Legislature and local politics for the Daily Herald. You can connect with Billy by email at or by

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