From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 2, Number 34 - November 21, 2002
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Water release okayed

by Cat Urbigkit

The Wyoming State Board of Control deliberated last week and issued its decision on the Wyoming Game and Fish Department's (WG&F) petition to amend its Fremont Lake storage water right.

BOC Administrator Alan Cunningham confirmed that the board granted the WG&F request in part and denied it in part. While WG&F's request to be able to perform water releases in other than just the winter months was granted, the agency's request to have the water automatically "protected," or regulated, was denied.

WG&F owns 952 acre-feet of stored water in Fremont Lake with the stated purpose of "fish propagation." In March, WG&F filed an application with the State Board of Control to make changes to this water right: deleting the restrictive language regarding regulation and protection of the water right; allowing the water to be released at any time during the year as needed rather than during the period of Oct. 1 through May 30.

According to the WG&F application: "The effect of this amendment is to permit water to be used when needed for the beneficial use of fishery protection."

With last week's approval, WG&F will be able to call for water releases throughout the year. Presently, the use of WG&F storage is restricted to the Fremont Lake fishery during the summertime, and only during the wintertime for the Pine Creek fishery.

The WG&F petition was the subject of a somewhat contentious hearing in Pinedale last month in which the Sublette County Farm Bureau officially contested the WG&F petition based on the harm that water regulation could cause to cooperative efforts at irrigation in the area.

BOC member Jade Henderson said in an interview, "We think that's the Game and Fish's water and think that their argument for flexibility year-round is a good one.

"However, we don't think that under their petition before the board, we really have the authority to ensure an instream flow and that's the protection side of it," Henderson said. "So that part will have to wait for the next step."

Henderson said, "I think the hearing made a good case for saying that the consensus operation on Pine Creek ought not to be scuttled. I think our action didn't do that. I think we left a lot of room for consensus to still operate.

"Protection won't be afforded without an instream flow permit," Henderson said.

Cunningham said the BOC will issue its order on the WG&F petition within 60 days, but both the WG&F and the Sublette County Farm Bureau should receive letters this week explaining the board's decision.

In other Pine Creek instream flow news, last Thursday the Wyoming Water Development Commission approved a $3,000 amendment to the contract for the analysis of Pine Creek flows. WWDC officials said the report on the instream flow proposal divided the proposal into three separate segments for analysis. The final report on the proposal is now complete, although the WWDC won't officially approve it until its meeting next month. However, the report has now been forwarded on to the State Engineer's Office, WG&F and the Town of Pinedale.

Now that the State Engineer's Office has the report, it has scheduled a public hearing on WG&F's instream flow filings for Pine Creek. One application would use stored water for the instream flow, while the second calls for a direct flow right as well. The hearing has been set for Dec. 19 at 9 a.m., at the Sublette County Library in Pinedale.

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