From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 8, Number 2 - April 2, 2008
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Wyoming State Engineer Pat Tyrell gives the Pinedale audience an update on the state’s changing water needs and issues last week.
Water Issues Surface For GRBAG Plan II

by Janet Montgomery

Years of drought and an increased population using more and more water with industry and agriculture brings the issue of water planning to the surface for Wyoming.

In Pinedale, locals were interested in Wyoming’s State Water Plan process as they attended a meeting last Wednesday in the Sublette County Library in Pinedale to hear updates on Wyoming’s water plan process at the Green River Basin Advisory Group public meeting. With the idea to educate and inform the public about the planning process, update the existing issue and strategies, and identify strategies to address issues, about 10 meetings are being held throughout the Green River Basin in an effort to update the existing information for the Green River Basin Plan II.

The meeting in Pinedale last week was the second with the next two set for Lyman and Kemmerer.

The planning process to create the Statewide Framework Water Plan is being done for each of the seven basins in Wyoming as a cooperative effort among the Wyoming Water Development Commission, U.S. Geological Survey, Wyoming State Geological Survey, and private consultant WWC Engineering. The seven basins include the Bear River Basin, the Snake/Salt River Basin, Wind/ Bighorn River Basin, Powder/ Tongue River Basin, the Northeast Wyoming River Basin, the Platte River Basin and the Green River Basin.

The State Framework Water Plan has two objectives.The first volume is an inventory of the state’s water resources and related lands, summery of the state’s present water uses, a projection of future water needs, and an identification of alternative decision to meet the indicated future water needs. The second volume is to provide future water resource planning direction to the State of Wyoming. The Framework Water Plan provides “information for decision making for a 30- year planning horizon.”

According to the waterplan Web site, “The Green River Basin Plan II has been in full swing for the last seven months.” The plan was split into two parts — one focusing on the plan update and the other focusing on groundwater.

The GRBP II will expand on existing information and missing information, groundwater data collection, water demand based on projections population and economic projections, availability estimates, existing issues list and existing strategies list.

The update on surface water was contracted to WWC Engineering, which has offices in Sheridan and Laramie. Murray Schroeder of the WWC Laramie office is the project manager.

Schroeder also was the project manager for the State Framework Water Plan. The groundwater portion of the plan is being headed by the Wyoming State Geological Service (WSGS joined by USGS and Water Resources Data Systemat the University ofWyoming).

At Wednesday’s meetings, Schroeder’s presentation focused on population estimates, noting projections indicate that the overwhelming bulk of growth in the Sublette County area by 2055 in the rural areas of the county. Over the next five decades, Pinedale is expected to grow to 6,000 residents with the growth resulting in increasing demands for water in the area.

Wyoming State Engineer Pat Tyrrell said he sympathized with what Shroeder was going through with the expected changes in population.

“We didn’t project the intensity of gas development that we’ve seen just in the last three, four or five years,” he said. “There’s an old saying that planning is always necessary and it’s always wrong.”

Tyrell also noted that updates on plans were necessary to address the ever-changing needs and to make corrections for things that didn’t come out as thought it would. Tyrell gave an update on Colorado River Basin issues, which affects Wyoming as the Green River flows into the Colorado River to supply water to seven states in the Colorado River Basin.

Water shortages, increasing demands for water for agriculture and growing population are putting strains on historic agreements of who gets how much water and when.

With a five-year average of 50 percent of normal flow for Lakes Powell and Mead, a coordinated operation to address the issue was launched with the culminating environmental impact statement finished last year and the record of decision issued in December.

Tyrell said the objective of the ROD was basically to “establish away to provide a shortage criteria in the lower basin... (and) minimize risk of curtailment usage in the upper basin states.”

The ROD signing also put the Colorado River Interim Shortage Guidelines and Coordinated Colorado River Interim Shortage Guidelines and Coordinated Reservoir Operations into effect immediately.

The 2007 Basin Stages Agreement was implemented to try to put Interim Shortage Guidelines in place to protect the states when water shortages come. That agreement has wording in place to do more to protect Wyoming’s upstream water rights when shortages ultimately come to the Colorado River system.

Some of those benefits include the seven states’ commitment to pursue water supply augmentation to create real and specific incentives for conservation and augmentation in the Lower Basin.

The agreement also greatly reduces the risk of interstate litigation on the Colorado River through 2026, although Tyrell noted that it doesn’t eliminate the risk of lawsuits.

It reduces the likelihood of compact administration (under Article IV of 1948 UCRB Compact) requiring the curtailment of uses in Wyoming or the other Upper Basin States during the interim period, as well as provides for mutual recognition of right to use and develop Compact apportionments Key Elements of Interim Shortage Guidelines and Coordinated Reservoir Operations include:

• Shortage determinations (when and how much shortage will be made based on specific storage content levels in Lake Mead Coordinated operation of Lakes Powell and Mead;

• Shortage declared when Lake Mead elevations fall to a specific level;

• Releases from Lake Powell determined by storage in Powell and Mead;

• Mechanism for storage and delivery of conserved system and non-system water in Lake Mead through the creation and use of Intentionally Created Surplus (ICS) water; and

• Modify and extend the Interim Surplus Guidelines Tyrrell said on the whole, the Wyoming statewide average for water is currently at about 100 percent with the exception of the Upper Green River Basin, which is at about 85 percent of normal right now. “We get half our snow in March and April, so we may catch up,” he said.

Tyrrell said the state would be installing new instrumentation throughout the Green River Basin in coming years to better measure water flow in streams, diversions and reservoirs. The instruments will provide realtime data for watermonitoring and will have a web component for data display.

Locally, Pinedale Town Engineer Eugene Ninnie said that the Town of Pinedale is implement a plan to examine the town’s water lines with Rio Verde Engineer overseeing the project that will include examination of pipe size, hydrants, and performance aswell as to develop a plan for improvements and target problems.

To read more about the Wyoming State Water Plan online and to make comments attending the upcoming meetings and filling out a comment card, or filling out the comment formonline at next GRBAG meeting is set for May 22 in Lyman with anothermeeting on June 25 in Kemmerer.

Dawn Ballou, Pinedale Online, contributed to this article.

Photo credits:  Dawn Ballou, Pinedale Online

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