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Harry C. LaBonde, Jr., PE, Director 
6920 Yellowtail Rd, Cheyenne, WY 82002 
Phone: 307-777-7626 

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 33. PROJECT:Deer Creek Dam and Reservoir
SPONSOR:State of Wyoming
LOCATION:South of Glenrock, Converse County, Wyoming
PROGRAM:New Development
Purpose Chapter Session Account Appropriation Due Date
Level III 52 1984 I $3,000,000 N/A
Level IV 89 1985 I $45,000,000 N/A
Level IV 59 1996 I $15,000,000 N/A
Level IV 81 1999 I $13,500,000 N/A

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 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 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 year. 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 be resolved:

  1. The Department of Interior must approve the concept and agree to provide the regulatory certainty desired by the state and the water users.

  2. The Governor must approve the project.

  3. 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.

  4. Formal agreements must be negotiated with the Bureau of Reclamation, the affected federal water contractors, and the municipal water users.

  5. 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.

  6. Congressional authorization may be required to amend the original purpose of the Pathfinder Dam to include municipal and environmental uses.

  7. 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 project. 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 appropriation.

No legislative action is required at this time.

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