Public selects Advisory Group for Bear River feasibility study
An Advisory Group to assist the Wyoming Water Development Commission
with the Bear River portion of the water planning feasibility study has been
selected by citizens in the Basin.
At a public meeting in Evanston on January 27, over 80 citizens voiced
concerns and commented on local water issues. Fifteen individuals representing
agriculture, industry, municipalities, recreation, environmental concerns, and local
government were nominated to advise the WWDC during the feasibility study to
implement a new state water planning process.
A second public meeting was held in Evanston on March 11. During the
course of the meetings, the public discussed issues to be considered by the
state's planning team in the feasibility study process.
In December 1997, the Wyoming Water Development Commission (WWDC)
selected the Bear River Basin for a feasibility demonstration project. The project
is a critical component of the planning process and allows the state planning team
to test assumptions "on the ground" by fostering public involvement in prototype
basin planning. Planners will test data acquisition methods and evaluate existing
data in the basin. Issue identification and public participation will also be key
components of the effort. The Basin Advisory Group will assist planners in these
two areas especially.
On January 27, the public heard WWDC Planning Project Manager Evan
Green explain the purpose of the feasibility demonstration project and the
planning process in general. Green emphasized the need to proactively manage
the state's water resources in view of the effects of federal regulations and thirsty
downstream states. Many western states have active water planning programs
and Wyoming has some catching up to do. Existing Wyoming water law was one
area that Green discussed. He stressed that the State Water Planning Process is
not intended to change existing water law, the prior appropriation doctrine or
individual water rights. Water management decisions will continue to be made by
the same people using the same procedures now in effect, but the Water Planning
Process will provide those decision makers with better information to use in the
process, Green stressed.
The public at the January meeting reviewed the issues that had been
identified from the 1997 statewide water planning questionnaire. There was
general agreement that statewide issues also applied to the Bear River Basin.
Meeting participants were concerned about the effects and needs of economic
development. Some were also concerned that traditional water uses in agriculture
could be impacted by growth in the basin and competing water demands in the
future. The public then agreed on those local water interests that should be
represented on an advisory group including: Agriculture, Conservation Districts,
Industry, Environmentalists, Recreation, Municipalities, Counties, the Bear River
Water Quality Task Force, and the Bear River Compact. The public nominated 15
individuals to represent these local interests in the form of the Basin Advisory
On March 11, the 15 member Basin Advisory Group met to hear an update
of current planning activities in the basin and statewide. Evan Green explained the
value of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to the planning process. Group
members were shown examples of this type of mapping technology from the
basin. GIS allows site specific data to be retrieved from computer generated maps
which can be linked to other water resources databases. GIS also allows planners
and everyday decision makers to see actual "on the ground" relationships in map
format. These powerful tools are considered to be an important foundation for the
modern planning process in Wyoming. The use of computer databases means that
information updates can occur rapidly as conditions change in the future.
During the March meeting, the Basin Advisory Group agreed to selectively
use water resources experts in state agencies as necessary to help them make
recommendations on Bear River basin water planning issues. Such experts will
serve as a technical resource team to the 15 member group. The group members
will develop practical recommendations on local water management which can be
submitted to the Governor and Wyoming Legislature in 1999. Fourteen separate
water resource issue areas were identified by the Wyoming public during the
1997 statewide survey. Local advisory groups, such as the one in the Bear River
Basin will assist planners by identifying local priorities and recommendations in
In the future, the Basin Advisory Group will meet on the 3rd Monday of the
month at alternating sites in the basin. The next meeting will be held on April 20,
in Cokeville. The public is welcome to attend any Basin Advisory Group meeting
and notifications will always appear in local newspapers.
Water Planners will continue to use the Internet as a method to provide
access to public documents and water planning activities in Wyoming. The
possibilities of this form of communication are growing day by day and will
complement more traditional forms of communication such as this newsletter. In
the near future, the Statewide Inventory of Water Resources Data will also be
available on the Internet. The water planning web site is updated with new
information as soon as it becomes available.
Legislature cancels funding for Water Resources Center
During the 1998 session, the Wyoming Legislature removed the
primary source of state funding for the Wyoming Water Resources
Center housed at the University of Wyoming. By deleting a $1.7
million appropriation request from the Water Development
Account, the Legislature send a strong message that the Center
should be funded through the University's block grant.
The University responded by moving to close the Center effective June 30,
1998. Roughly 24 employees and several ongoing research contracts are affected
by the decision.
"We had expected to use the resources of the Water Center for
implementation of the state water planning process," said Mike Besson, director
of the Wyoming Water Development Commission. "The decision to close the
Center may increase the costs associated with the collection, storage, and
management of water related data for the plan," he continued.
WWDC presently contracts with the Water Center for a full-time staff person
to assist with the state water planning feasibility study, and for the preparation
of a statewide inventory of water data. Besson indicated that the inventory is
completed, and staff assistance may be contracted directly with the University,
perhaps through the office of Research Vice President Bill Gern.
"There has been pressure on the Legislature to limit the diversion of Water
Development Account funds to non-project purposes," said Besson. "We are
working with the University in an attempt to continue at least some of the data
services previously available through the Water Center."
Water Center completes statewide water data inventory
Under the direction of the WWDC, the Wyoming Water Resources
Center (WWRC) has completed a statewide inventory of water
resources data. The inventory will be used in the planning
feasibility study to estimate costs and resources for basin
planning in Wyoming. The full evaluation of water resources is
dependent on the availability of data in various regions. WWDC
was also committed to fill the gap created by the lack of such
a comprehensive inventory.
The WWRC was commissioned to inventory both in house and state agency
data holdings by geographic region. This Statewide Data Inventory will be
disseminated online through the Internet. The Water Resources Data System
(WRDS) and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) units at the WWRC have
significant holdings of point attribute and spatially referenced data. This data is
made available to the public through hundreds of annual requests made to the GIS
and WRDS units. The WWRC is also involved in many technical and educational
projects which serve Wyoming through the dissemination of water related
information and analyses. The WWRC also maintains working relationships with
state and federal agencies and provides public access to a wide range of data
from around Wyoming.
Water center staff communicated with scores of agencies to complete the
Statewide Data Inventory. Professionals and the general public can now determine
the extent of information available in many water resource categories in specific
river basins. The inventory covers 12 major themes from ground and surface
water to climate. Multiple sub-themes are also summarized. Beyond the dataset
description, the inventory explains the utility of the data as well as its
completeness, format and distribution policy.
The 13 basins included in the inventory correspond to hydrologic unit codes
commonly used to classify water resources information in Wyoming. Individuals
who are seeking information in the water resources field need to know what data
exists where and how to find it. The Statewide Data Inventory not only identifies
the extent of specific categories of data but also directs the user to agencies that
can provide access to it.
Many of the state and federal agencies which contributed to the water
center report are anticipated to be some of the primary users. Hydrologists, flow
modelers, geologists, climatologists, planners and many others will find the
resource invaluable. The WWRC has made a significant effort to include all
categories of data and encompass the entire state. The result is a multiple volume
report that has hundreds of pages. The report will be available to the public and
water resource professionals on the Internet at http://waterplan.state.wy.us/, the
home page of the Wyoming State Water Planning Process. (See related article in
this news letter.)
The Wyoming Water Development Commission intends to use the Statewide
Data Inventory results in its ongoing planning feasibility study.
Consultants selected to assist state with feasibility study
The Wyoming Water Development Commission has selected two consulting
firms to assist the state with the water planning feasibility study. States West
Water Resources Corporation of Cheyenne, has contracted with the WWDC to
complete irrigated lands mapping in the Bear, Snake, and Salt river basins, and
Boyle Engineering of Lakewood, Colorado will provide general assistance with the
"We needed the irrigated lands mapping as a basis for our feasibility study
and ultimately the basin plans, " said WWDC Director Mike Besson. He pointed
out that such mapping had not been done by the state in the Salt and Snake
drainages, and that the Bear River information had not been updated since the
mid-1980's. "States West is one of the top firms in the area doing this kind of
work," Besson said, "and we are pleased to have them on the planning team."
States West will be interpreting aerial photography and satellite imagery as a part
of the mapping process. The firm will also assist the preparation of demonstration
quads which will be a part of the WWDC's recommendation to the 1999 session
of the Legislature (See related story in this newsletter on the Smith's Fork
After a competitive selection process, the planning team selected Boyle
Engineering of Lakewood to assist with general feasibility issues, including cost
and resource requirements for planning process implementation. Boyle's team,
lead by project manager Erin Wilson, consists of States West Water Resources
Corporation of Cheyenne, Sunrise Engineering of Afton, Leonard Rice Consulting
Water Engineers and Tsunami Consulting Group, both of Denver. Boyle and
Leonard Rice have worked extensively in the implementation of water planning
efforts in Colorado, New Mexico and Texas.
Ross Bethel of Leonard Rice was responsible for implementation of the
Colorado River Decision Support System, a major water planning data system for
the State of Colorado. Tsunami specializes in computer applications, and Sunrise
Engineering has experience in Geographical Information Systems (GIS)
applications and brings local experience to the Bear River portion of the feasibility
The Boyle team, after a period of familiarization with the work of the
planning team over the last 18 months, will evaluate a draft basin scope of
services prepared by WWDC staff and develop recommendations for a format to
implement a water planning process suitable in scope to Wyoming's needs and
resources. The consultant will also assist the planning team with development
and implementation recommendations, including the preparation of cost estimates
for various planning formats.
Boyle's team is required to have a final report prepared in draft form by
August 1st to allow the WWDC to solicit and receive public comment on the
recommendations and implementation strategies.
Smith's Fork Irrigation District to participate in "Super Quads"
As a part of the water planning feasibility study, WWDC
intends to create several demonstration quads, or "Super Quads"
to showcase the use of various data display and modeling
techniques which could be brought to bear on the planning
process. Geographic Information Systems (GIS), an interactive
data base, and computer modeling techniques are anticipated to
be the foundation of the planning recommendations to the 1999
The Smith's Fork Irrigation District near Cokeville had approached the
Lincoln County Planning Office to request mapping assistance for assessment
purposes, and this request was forwarded to WWDC for inclusion of irrigated
acres and water rights. At a recent meeting in Cokeville, WWDC agreed to assist
by mapping irrigated acres within the District and creating an overlay of actual
water rights. Surface ownership information will be provided by the Lincoln
County Planning Office.
This process will serve several purposes. The District will be able to
accurately assess its members according to actual irrigated lands and land
ownership. Also, the District will be able to readily identify any discrepancies
between irrigated lands and water rights, and will be able to petition the Board of
Control to correct these discrepancies if necessary.
In addition, the information will allow the planning team to demonstrate how
a GIS data base could be utilized to improve water management in conjunction
with other GIS "layers."
"We're very pleased that the Smith's Fork District has agreed to work with
us on this project," said Evan Green, WWDC water planning project manager.
"We have always maintained that one of the reasons for revising the water
planning process is that knowledge is power. If you know where your water is
going, how it's being used, and where you are vulnerable, you can take steps to
correct the situation. The irrigators in the Smith's Fork District understand this
at the local level, and the position of the planning team is that the principle also
applies at the state level. The better our information and the greater the range of
our knowledge about the resource, the better prepared we are to deal with
downstream states or the federal government on resource issues," Green said.
Green stressed that comparisons of irrigated acres and water rights are
being done only at the invitation of the water rights holders, and there are no
plans to do comparisons in areas other than the Smith's Fork District.