From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 3, Number 15 - July 10, 2003
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Besson pledges support for addressing water shortages

by Cat Urbigkit

Any proposal for a transbasin diversion that would divert water from the Green River Basin into the North Platte River Basin would be required to address existing water shortages in the basin of origin, in addition to providing water to the basin it was being exported to, according to Wyoming Water Development Commission Dir-ector Mike Besson.

Besson's comments were made at Tuesday's meeting of the Green River Basin Advisory Group at Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge. Some members of the group were unhappy with Besson for proposing the water transfer to Governor Dave Freudenthal without taking the idea to the group first. The Green River BAG is the citizen group formed by WWDC a few years ago to develop a plan for future water use. Transbasin diversions were the lowest priority item in the group's completed plan.

Besson said with the change in the administration this year, he sent Freudenthal the memo in February as an idea that complies with his agency's mission to maximize the utility of Wyoming's waters. He said it was a timing issue that he didn't take it before the Green River BAG earlier.

"This is just a study, just in the office," Besson said. "It's nothing formal."

He said there are water shortages in certain tributaries in the upper basin, but no such shortages exist below the Fontenelle Reservoir.

Besson said, "I think there are some fatal flaws in the Upper Basin when it comes to hydrology."

The internal "Green River Export" study currently underway will look at alternatives for putting water into a pipeline for delivery to the North Platte River Basin. While the Upper Basin may be quickly ruled out, the middle and lower segments may take more study.

"We do have the water at Fontenelle to pipe across," Besson said, but the environmental impacts of such an action would have to be examined.

"We need to do more to try to increase the beneficial use of Wyoming's water," Besson said. "I'm interested in building more storage."

Besson said although the transbasin diversion is a controversial idea, "Do I think it's do-able? Yeah. But the only way it's do-able is if we unite."

Besson said, "It's all about choices," to which Boulder rancher Randy Bolgiano agreed.

"Delineating those choices were a good part of what we were charged with," Bolgiano said, adding that the transbasin diversion idea "was right there at the bottom."

"If you folks aren't behind it, it will be hard to sell, because it would be so expensive," Besson said.

Bolgiano reminded Besson that a tri-county joint powers board has been established and the interested counties are preparing to make appointments to that board, whose purpose is to serve as the sponsoring entity for water storage projects in the Green River Basin.

"We're going to stick with our plan," Bolgiano told Besson.

Besson responded, "I have been approached by people in the other basin," about using Green River water to address their shortages. "This is a state resource, water is, by the state constitution.

"I think they are going to be hamstrung if we don't find them a water supply," Besson said.

Bolgiano said he didn't doubt Besson's words about the North Platte water users being hamstrung, but added that the Green River Basin water group wants help from the agency under which it crafted its plan for future water use.

Besson said, "And you'll get it, and you're going to get it," to which Bolgiano responded, "I want to believe that."

WWDC staff will evaluate the transbasin alternatives for feasibility and will then prepare a report describing their findings.

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