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 a 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 to residents 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
In October, 1986, the State of Nebraska reopened the 1945 North Platte River Decree in the U.S.
Supreme Court. Nebraska's petition alleges 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 issues related to the Deer Creek project are resolved.
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, Goshen Irrigation District proposed modeling the Pathfinder project to address
water supply needs for the targeted species.
The concept involves increasing 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, and bald eagle.
In order to alleviate the impacts of recapturing the 54,000 acre feet and to compensate for the
municipal storage account, project funds would also be used to pay a 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. 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 Pathfinder Reservoir.
In order for the Pathfinder Enlargement to be implemented, the following institutional issues must
- 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
- 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 species purposes.
- 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, there must be broad based public support for the
Due to the ongoing litigation, the construction of the Deer Creek Dam has been delayed. 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. The WWDC remains committed to securing a 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 as an alternative
to meeting the water demand of North Platte River communities.
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 Creek
RECOMMENDED LEGISLATIVE ACTION:
No legislative action is required at this time.