Deer Creek is a tributary of the North Platte River. Its drainage basin
lies in central Wyoming south of the Town of Glenrock. The proposed Deer
Creek Dam and Reservoir is located in the Laramie Range and is situated
at the north end of lower Deer Creek Canyon. Access to the dam site is
approximately 23 miles from Casper via the Hat Six Road.
The project includes the 280-foot high dam, spillway, outlet works, access
roads, gaging stations, power supply facilities, utility and road relocations,
remote sensing and control features, embankment instrumentation, a boat
ramp, and appurtenances. The reservoir will have a capacity of 65,785 acre
feet. The primary purpose of the project is to meet the present and future
municipal water needs of such communities as Casper, Mills, Wardwell,
Evansville, Glenrock, Douglas and possibly others. The project is permitted
to provide an annual yield of 9,600 acre-feet. The reservoir will provide
flood benefits to the Town of Glenrock and along Deer Creek. The project
will result in substantial recreation benefits from the reservoir and Deer
Creek below the reservoir. The facility will be designed to allow future
retrofitting for hydropower generation facilities.
In October, 1986, the State of Nebraska reopened the 1945 North Platte River
Decree in the U.S. Supreme Court. Nebraska's petition alleges among other
things that the proposed construction of storage capacity on certain
tributaries of the North Platte River violates the decree. The Deer Creek
project is located on one such tributary. Wyoming has aggressively responded.
In June, 1988, Nebraska's Director of the Department of Water Resources filed
another suit concerning the Deer Creek project. The Complaint alleges
violations of environmental and administrative laws and regulations against
representatives of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service over issuance of the 404 permit and biological opinion.
Wyoming was not named as a defendant. Upon motion of the federal defendants,
the court ordered the case stayed until resolution of issues related to the
Deer Creek project in the Supreme Court action.
For the past five years, negotiations have been underway to settle the lawsuit
and resolve endangered species issues in the Platte River Basin which have
impacted water management and development in the basin for the past twenty
years. During the discussions pertaining to endangered species, a concept
originated by the Goshen Irrigation District has been discussed.
The concept involves the Pathfinder Enlargement which would increase the height
of Pathfinder Dam by 2.37 feet to recapture 54,000 acre feet of storage space
lost to sediment. Twenty thousand (20,000) acre feet of the recaptured space
would be allocated to achieve the same municipal water supply benefits as the
Deer Creek Dam. The remaining 34,000 acre feet of storage space would serve
the federal water contractors in Wyoming and Nebraska and other Wyoming water
users by resolving the outstanding Section 7 consultation on the federal
reservoirs and pending Section 7 consultations of special use permits on forest
lands. The storage space would be allocated as a water supply component to
resolve endangered species issues in the North Platte Basin through the Platte
River Basin Endangered Species Recovery Implementation Program. While the
parameters of the program are still being negotiated, Wyoming's goal in
participating in the program is to achieve regulatory certainty on issues
relating to the recovery of the whooping crane, piping plover, least tern,
bald eagle and recovery of the federally designated critical habitat in the
Central Platte River.
In order to alleviate the impacts of recapturing the 54,000 acre feet and to
compensate for the municipal storage account, project funds would be used to
pay federal contractor's share of upcoming safety of dams modifications on
the federal dams in Wyoming and to resolve the selenium problems at Goose and
Rasmus Lee Lakes within the Kendrick Project, as well as pay for the modifications
at Pathfinder Dam necessary to recapture the 54,000 acre feet of storage.
While the recaptured space would enjoy the benefits of the 1904 storage right,
provisions would be provided to insure that the recaptured space could not
place a call on existing non-federal direct flow and storage rights above
In order for the Pathfinder Enlargement to be implemented, the following
institutional issues must be resolved:
- The Department of Interior must approve the concept and agree to
provide the regulatory certainty desired by the state and the water users.
- The Governor must approve the project.
- The legislature must authorize the use of the Deer Creek funds
to participate in the safety of dam modifications, the selenium issues
on the Kendrick Project, and enlargement of Pathfinder Dam.
- Formal agreements must be negotiated with the Bureau of Reclamation,
the affected federal water contractors, and the municipal water users.
- The Board of Control must approve a change of use for the recaptured
storage space in Pathfinder Reservoir. The State Engineer and legislature
must approve the interstate water right to allow water in the 34,000 acre
foot environmental account to be delivered to Nebraska for endangered
- Congressional authorization may be required to amend the original
purpose of the Pathfinder Dam to include municipal and environmental uses.
- NEPA and Section 404 of the Clean Water Act clearances must be achieved.
It is obvious that in order to achieve the above institutional approvals, there
must be broad based public support for the project.
Due to the ongoing litigation, the construction of the Deer Creek Dam will be
delayed another three to four years. At the same time, other projects, in
particular the Greybull Valley Dam, were in a status that required construction
funding. Therefore, the WWDC recommended and the legislators authorized a
$30,000,000 reduction in the project appropriation from $45,000,000 to
$15,000,000 during the 1996 legislative session. This action is based on
funding management and should not be interpreted as a lack of support for the
Deer Creek Dam and Reservoir. The WWDC remains committed to securing the water
supply needed by the City of Casper and other North Platte communities in the
area. This commitment is documented by the fact that the funding authorization
for the Deer Creek Dam is proposed to remain at $45,000,000. In addition, the
Commission received gubernatorial and legislative authorization to use
$1,000,000 of the project appropriation to evaluate the Pathfinder Enlargement
In order to fund activities associated with the state's participation in the
"Cooperative Agreement for the Platte River Research and Other Efforts Relating
to Endangered Species Habitats along the Central Platte River, Nebraska,"
the legislature increased the ceiling for the evaluation of the Pathfinder
Enlargement alternative and other alternatives to $1,400,000 from the Deer
RECOMMENDED LEGISLATIVE ACTION:
No legislative action is required at this time.