From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 2, Number 38 - December 19, 2002
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Green River water pact okayed

by Cat Urbigkit

Sublette County Commissioners met in a regular business session Tuesday and reported that after a conference call the day before, three counties have agreed to sign a joint powers agreement to sponsor water development projects in the Green River Basin.

This agreement, which involves Sweetwater, Sublette and Lincoln counties, has been about a year and a half in the making, and was instigated by citizen members of the Green River Basin Advisory Group. Once each of the counties signs the hard copy of the agreement, and the agreement is approved by the Wyoming Attorney General, each of the counties can begin making appointments for people to serve on the board.

The need for more water storage in the upper portion of the basin has been getting increased consideration from public officials, and additional storage is often viewed as a way of ensuring Wyoming's water rights allocated by compact.

Also on Tuesday, U.S. Senator Mike Enzi said California should not use more water from the Colorado River than it agreed to, and he applauded Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton for announcing she will enforce the agreement beginning Jan. 1.

For decades, California has exceeded its adjudicated Colorado River water limit of 4.4 million acre-feet. In 2002, the state exceeded the limit by more than 800,000 acre-feet.

In a seven-state compact, negotiated during the Bill Clinton Administration, California agreed to scale back its use of Colorado River water over the next 15 years. In return, the other six states agreed to allow California to receive enhanced access to surplus water over the same 15-year interim period. The agreement, however, also stated that if California failed to take specific required actions to meet certain interim benchmarks, the state would immediately lose its enhanced access to any surplus water.

Enzi made the following comments regarding Norton's decision: "It now appears California will not meet its first deadline. Secretary Norton will have no other alternative but to cut off access to any excess water and limit the state to the 4.4 million acre-feet established by the Supreme Court in 1929. Any other action could threaten the rights and livelihoods of every other state in the Colorado River Basin, especially in this time of severe drought.

"I have no doubt that if Wyoming were to violate any of its wate-use agreements that the courts, our neighboring states and California, would immediately take action to force our compliance. California deserves no more and no less than we do in Wyoming.

"Water is so important to Wyoming that we reserved state ownership of all water rights when our constitution was ratified in 1890. In other words, owning and accessing water was considered so critical to our state's future survival that we made controlling and possessing it one of the prior conditions to our joining the rest of the United States.

"We have been forced to defend that right in court and to negotiate ways to protect our rights without impinging on the rights of neighboring states. We have been forced to make concessions and to live within the restraints placed on us by those compacts and other natural limitations.

" I strongly support Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton in her decision," Enzi concluded.

See The Archives for past articles.

Copyright © 2002 Sublette Examiner
All rights reserved. Reproduction by any means must have permission of the Publisher.
Sublette Examiner, PO Box 1539, Pinedale, WY 82941   Phone 307-367-3203