From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 5, Number 45 - February 2, 2006
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Instream flow bill filed

by Cat Urbigkit

Well it's another legislative session, so there's been another instream-flow bill filed. In recent years, instream-flow bills have been introduced at every session and have thus far failed, but debate has been fierce.

This year, Lander Senator Cale Case, who often sponsors instream-flow legislation, has four other senators and three representatives joining him as co-sponsors of Senate File 56 on temporary instream flows.

The law would amend existing law that allows the state to acquire temporary water rights for highway or railroad roadbed construction or repair. It would create the right for the state to acquire temporary water rights for instream flows.

The bill proposes, "The state shall have the right to acquire, by purchase, gift or lease, the right to the use of water which may be embraced in any adjudicated or valid unadjudicated water right, or any portion thereof, for a period not to exceed two years, for instream flow purposes, on its own behalf." The bill continued that "any temporary transfer shall be allowed only if no other appropriator is injured thereby."

The bill provides for an application procedure through the state engineer's office.

The Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation has fought instream-flow bills in the past. Farm Bureau Executive Vice President Ken Hamilton said: "This bill, in my opinion, still has some fundamental flaws, similar to those which were in the bill last year. I am still concerned that Wyoming's temporary change-of-use statute is being stretched to be something other than temporary."

Hamilton said he is also concerned that the bill still doesn't quantify the change of use for instream-flow purposes.

"Wyoming's instream-flow law currently requires a fairly specific amount of water and a distance," Hamilton said, adding that the proposed legislation doesn't appear to have that limitation.

"The issue of shifting a consumptive use to a non-consumptive use is still there as well," Hamilton added. "We also must deal with the reality of our world. Should a temporary change of use be granted for enhancement of fisheries, the public will be very reluctant to see that use be changed back to a consumptive use. Especially if fish will die. When does temporary stop being temporary?"

The Wyoming Legislature convenes on Feb. 13 in Cheyenne. Since it's a budget session, all non-budget bills require a two-thirds vote for introduction.

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