From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 3, Number 32 - November 6, 2003
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

More water development needed

by Cat Urbigkit

The Green River Basin Advisory Group met in Pinedale Tuesday and heard a general overview and heard several general overviews and updates from state water officials.

Wyoming Water Development Director Mike Besson told the group, "This drought really indicates that we've got to do more: we've got to do more across the board (from municipal water needs to agricultural) ... I see shortages everywhere."

Besson said his office is seeing a real increase in applications for the small water development program that involves a maximum grant of $25,000. Eligible projects must have a documented public benefit, so even if it's a livestock water development, it can be eligible so long as it has wildlife or environmental benefits.

Besson said some members of the Wyoming Water Development Commission "are lukewarm about the program because they view it as just another subsidy for agriculture," but find the program acceptable because of the public benefit requirement.

As for larger water development projects, Besson said the WWDC accounts are now being restored, allowing the commission to get back to "doing God's work: water development."

Some of the biggest hurdles to larger water storage projects now involve wetlands, which are federally regulated, and wildlife habitat issues, Besson said. But projects can be designed to address these issues, such as the designation of a large pool of water in the High Savery Dam for cutthroat trout. "We're not afraid of these issues," Besson said. "You have to get your own house in order before you take on these issues with the federal government."

Besson noted, "Wetlands are really problematic," and can be the death of a storage project proposal.

"We have to recognize that sometimes there are fatal flaws," Besson said.

In other water business, Deputy Wyoming State Engineer Harry LaBonde pointed out that State Engineer Pat Tyrrell created a new division within the 110-employee state water regulatory agency to focus on interstate streams.

Wyoming is a party to seven interstate river compacts and two United States court decrees and it's the Interstate Streams Division's job to address Wyoming's concerns with these agreements.

The division represents Wyoming on compact commissions, works on water policy issues at the interstate level, coordinates with other agencies and states, works on water accounting and water planning issues, and is in charge of the management of overall compliance of the new Modified North Platte River decree.

The Green River Basin Advisory Group is slated to hold its next meeting on Tuesday, March 23, 2004 in Rock Springs.

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