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WATER PLANNING NEWS

Wyoming Water Development Commission Summer 1998

Feasibility Study Underway: Basin Group
Considers Bear River Issues, TMDLs

In this issue...


Basin Advisory Group meets May 18 and begins issue identification

The Bear River Basin Advisory Group (BAG) met in Evanston for its fourth monthly meeting and concentrated on issues identification and prioritization.

The group worked from a matrix of topics, and found that some issues, such as water quality, touched all present and future use concerns.

Issues such as water quality, compact allocations, state water law, and existing water rights are identifiable and relatively concrete, while open spaces, traditional life styles, recreational water uses, environmental concerns and habitat maintenance are extremely difficult to quantify. Trying to place an economic value on these water uses is extremely subjective, as is the projection of future water demands and development impacts.

The group agreed on the desirability of protecting existing water uses and water rights, while recognizing the restraints imposed by federal regulations. The Advisory Group urged that the water planning process be used to foster a true partnership between the users, the state, and federal agencies to resolve the issues associated with meeting the requirements of the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, and other federal mandates.

TMDL's and the desirability of local input into the development of standards was stressed, and was the benefit of putting allocated water to beneficial use.

The group suggested that the water planning process could identify and evaluate the benefits as well as the impacts of agricultural use of water.

Storage, conservation, groundwater, coordination of existing use, and better management were all ways the group suggested could be considered to meet present and future and possibly conflicting demands.

The group agreed to a "homework" assignment to expand the issues raised in the meeting to the an additional seven issues identified in the public survey conducted by the WWDC planning team last year.

The results of this work will be compiled by the planning team and presented to the Basin Advisory Group for review at their June meeting.

The group also discussed the possibility of holding an afternoon and evening meeting in Cokeville in July to finalize the issues work and consider a format for their recommendations to the planning team.

The recommendations from the BAG will be integrated with other products of the on-going feasibility study and will be come a part of the recommendations for implementation of a water planning process to the 1999 Session of the Wyoming Legislature.


Next BAG meeting scheduled for June 22 in Kemmerer

A reminder that the June meeting of the Bear River Basin Advisory Group will be held at 6:00 p.m. on Monday, June 22nd at the Fossil Country Museum, 400 Pine Avenue in Kemmerer.

Scheduled for this meeting is a presentation from the Wyoming Water Coalition, and a review of the issues prioritization process.

As always, the meetings are open to the public, and anyone interested in water issues is welcome to attend. For more information on the meeting, or on the water planning feasibility study, call the Wyoming Water Development Commission at 307-777-7626.


UW plans summer field course in the Bear River Basin

The University of Wyoming is sponsoring a five day shortcourse in water law and administration in the Bear River Basin for the week of June 22.

The course will feature both class room lectures and field trips directed at exposing students to both the theoretical and practical aspects of water law, water use and administration, and water planning.

Featured speakers will include State Engineer Jeff Fassett, SEO Division Superintendent Jade Henderson, Bear River Commissioners Denice Wheeler and John Teichert, UW Law Professor Mark Squillace, former Casper Star Tribute Editor Anne MacKinnon, and WWDC water planning project manager Evan Green.

Field trips in the Cokeville area will explore the interrelationships of day-to-day water administration, irrigation management, and state water planning issues.

The course is open to anyone. Attorneys, engineers, teachers and other professionals may receive continuing education credit for participation. Cost for the full week is $365, but participants may register for any part of the five day course at reduced fees.

The registration deadline is June 5, 1998. Anyone interested in the course should call 1-800-448-7801 ext. 2 or 307-766-6802.


Water Development Association to meet in Kemmerer June 22-23

The third week in June promises to be a busy time in the Bear River Basin.

In addition to the WWDC's Basin Advisory Group meeting on the 22nd, and the UW Bear River Field Course that same week, the Wyoming Water Development Association (WWDA) will hold it's summer board meeting in Kemmerer, June 22nd and 23rd.

Starting at 1:00 p.m. on Monday the 22nd, the WWDA board will hold a business meeting to discuss the Association's participation in the WWDC water planning feasibility study, the Annual Meeting and Educational Seminar, and other resource issues.

On Tuesday at 8:00 a.m., the program portion of the Board Meeting will kick off with a presentation by Evan Green, WWDC water plan project manager.

Aaron Waller and Barry Lawrence of the Wyoming Water Resource Center will make a presentation on water planning technology and water planning programs in other states.

Erin Wilson of Boyle Engineering, whose firm was selected to assist the state in the water planning feasibility study, will discuss the role of private sector consultants in that effort.

Mike O'Grady, Jack Meana, and Frank Carr of States West Water Resources will discuss their work on applying water planning technology to assist the Smith's Fork Irrigation District. Joe and Jim Buckley, president and secretary of the District, will also be present to answer questions.

Jack Smith of the Lander Office of the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality will discuss TMDLs in the Bear River Basin and the potential for interagency cooperation to address that issue locally.

Representatives of the Wyoming Water Coalition, a group representing agricultural water users, will be present to discuss protecting agricultural interests through the water planning process.

WWDC Mike Besson will close the meeting at 11:30 with his projections about water planning and water development in the 21st century.

The WWDA meeting will be held in the Fossil Country Museum at 400 Pine Avenue in Kemmerer. Both the Monday and Tuesday sessions are open to the public.

Call the Water Development Association at 307-635-2947 for more information.


Water Resource Center to close June 30, some programs continue

Aaron Waller
Research Scientist
Water Resources Center

In the 1998 legislative session, the Wyoming Legislature voted to remove from the Water Development Commission budget a line item of $1.7 million to fund the Wyoming Water Resources Center (WWRC) for the next biennium. This amount represents a substantial portion of the "hard money" funding for the Center, and had been used in the past to leverage additional grants and soft money from other sources.

This funding for the Water Resource Center had been one of the "non-project" appropriations from the Water Development Account. Other "non-project" items include the North Platte Lawsuit, the Water Division III adjudication, and the operating budgets of the State Engineer's Office and the Water Development Commission. In 1998, about $1,000,000 was appropriated from the Account to fund efforts by DEQ and state Conservation Districts to respond to TMDL mandates under the Clean Water Act. (See the article on TMDLs in this newsletter). About 15% of the expenditures from the Water Development Account since 1980 have been in the non project category.

At their May 8-9 meeting, Trustees of the University approved a plan to submitted by President Phil DuBois to close the WWRC, effective June 30, 1998. The plan does include provisions to fulfill existing center contracts beyond the closing, and to transfer some of the center capabilities to other University departments.

The Water Center has been an important part of the water planning feasibility study now underway, and was projected to be a key component of the new water planning process under evaluation. The center has provided a full-time staff person to assist Water Development Commission planners, has provided advice and assistance, and helped coordinate the statewide water planning questionnaire which was sent to nearly 2000 Wyoming citizens.

The Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Water Resource Data Systems (WRDS) units at the Water Center had recently completed an inventory of water data in the state. This statewide data inventory will be used in the feasibility study to evaluate available resources and estimate costs associated with basin planning in Wyoming. GIS and WRDS technical capabilities were set to be an integral part of collection, storage and management of water data in the water planning process.

GIS activities at the University of Wyoming will now be housed in the Spatial Data and Visualization Center (SDVC). The SDVC had been a partner to the WWRC in the past, sharing computer hardware and technical staff. Existing Water Center GIS contracts that extend beyond June 1998 will be completed in the SDVC. The SDVC is also set to become the University's leading GIS research unit on campus. The unit will be involved in biological and geological as well as water related research and will be supervised under the Office of Research.

Also as part of the plan, the WRDS unit will now be supervised under the Department of Civil and Architectural Engineering, headed by Dr. Victor Hasfurther. Dr. Hasfurther is currently the State Climatologist and is a former Water Center Associate Director. WRDS is expected to continue its excellent service to agencies and the public as a water data clearinghouse.

The Water Resources Data System began in conjunction with the Water Planning program back in 1968. It will continue to assist the Water Development Commission in the current water planning effort. The full time University Research Scientist working on the planning feasibility study will be housed with the WRDS unit through 1999.

Water Planning information management will continue to involve technical units at the University of Wyoming. Over the last few decades, the State has made an investment in water information technology and plans on using existing facilities to the greatest extent possible in the water planning process. In this way, existing WRDS databases and technical GIS capabilities can be used to develop the information necessary for current river basin water planning.


TMDLs emerge as issue of concern to state water users

Beth Pratt
Water Quality Division
Department of Environmental Quality

A Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) is the amount of pollutant which a stream can accept and still meet its beneficial uses. TMDL's must be established for each pollutant which is a source of stream impairment. They must be measurable and must consider both point and nonpoint source pollutant loads, natural background conditions, and a margin of safety.

Section 303(d) of the Clean Water Act requires states to:

1) Identify all waters of the state which are impaired--i.e. they contain pollutants which adversely affect the beneficial use of the water.

2) Prioritize all impaired waterbodies for development of TMDL's. Prioritization is to take into consideration public health and environmental risk. Therefore, point source discharges generally are a higher priority than nonpoint sources of clean sediment.

3) Establish and adopt TMDL's for all impaired waterbodies.

If a state does not comply with Section 303(d), the Environmental Protection Agency is required to perform these activities.

Every two years, the state must evaluate its water quality data, and submit an updated impaired waterbody list to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for approval. This list is generated from the Statewide Water Quality Assessment (also known as the 305(b) Report) which also must be submitted every two years. Due to the lack of water quality data available, the Water Quality Division began using surveys in 1990 to determine stream status. These surveys were sent to Conservation Districts, U.S. Forest Service, BLM, Game and Fish, etc. The "professional judgement" of these entities was utilized to place streams on the impaired waterbody list (also known as the 303(d) list). In addition to waters which are actually impaired, the state must list those waters for which a TMDL will be established within the next two years. Therefore, the state also lists streams which have discharge permits due for renewal and which require a wasteload allocation (approximately 150 of the state's facilities with discharge permits have wasteload allocations).

The state has provided public notice and has submitted the 303(d) list to EPA, as required by the Clean Water Act, since 1990. Since the early 1980's the state has established TMDL's for point source discharges, where necessary, to achieve in- stream beneficial uses. We anticipate that approximately 5% of these dischargers may be affected by nonpoint source contributions of similar pollutants (such as fecal coliforms or ammonia). In 1989, the State adopted a Nonpoint Source Management Plan to address nonpoint sources of pollution. Under this voluntary program, the state provides Clean Water Act Section 319 funds to local entities for projects which address nonpoint source pollution. Many of these projects, though never formally adopted as a TMDL, contain all the components of a TMDL. DEQ anticipates that the major impact of TMDL's will be on activities which occur on federal lands.

On December 9, 1996, Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund, on behalf of Wyoming Outdoor Council, Biodiversity Associates, and American Wildlands, filed a lawsuit in Denver Federal Court to require Region VIII EPA to implement the TMDL program in Wyoming. The litigants claim that the state has not adequately monitored its streams, has not listed all impaired streams, and has not developed sufficient point or nonpoint source TMDL's. The EPA filed for, and was granted, a change of venue. The case is assigned to the federal court in Casper. The Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts has intervened in the lawsuit. Suits involving twenty-eight states are in some stage of litigation and settlement over TMDL's.

Although the state has not intervened, DEW is attempting to respond to the issues brought forth by the litigants.

Three positions have been added to the watershed management unit to assist with TMDL's, and a workplan has been submitted to EPA. The state's workplan establishes a five- year timeframe for monitoring streams on the 1996 303(d) list and a ten-year schedule for adopting TMDL's on those streams with credible data indicating TMDL's need to be established. Four additional staff positions will hired in July, 1998 to assist the state in performing the necessary monitoring and developing TMDL's in cooperation with local stakeholders.

The state has established a workgroup to assist and make recommendations to the agency on implementation of the workplan, future 303(d) lists, and listing criteria and priorities. The 1998 draft list contains: those waterbodies which have adequate data to determine non-support of beneficial uses, waterbodies which have point source permits with wasteload allocations due for reissuance in the next two years, and waterbodies where nonpoint source projects are currently addressing the sources of pollution. Those streams which were on the 1996 list but do not meet the above criteria for the new 1998 list were proposed for delisting where adequate data exists to show beneficial use support. Those streams with insufficient data will be monitored some time during the next five years to determine whether they should or should not be listed. A public notice was issued on the 1998 303(d) list on December 22, 1997. The comment period closed February 6, 1998. The DEQ responded to comments received and evaluated and analyzed supplemental data which was submitted prior to finalizing the 1998 list. The list was submitted to EPA for approval on March 30,1998. EPA has 30 days in which to approve or disapprove the state's submittal.

The state will work with EPA and with local, state and federal agencies to monitor water quality in the state, and where needed, to establish workable, implementable TMDL's.

The 1996 303(d) list contained 366 stream segments. The proposed 1998 list consists of the following:

  • 14 waterbodies with credible data indicating impairment
  • 29 waterbodies which have permits with wasteload allocations due for renewal.
  • 20 waterbodies with credible nonpoint source threats.
  • 33 waterbodies with credible data to delist-- they are meeting their beneficial uses.
  • 335 waterbodies about which there is insufficient credible data to know whether they should be listed or not.

Questions concerning TMDL issues should be directed to the Water Quality Division of DEQ, at 307-777-7781.


Where to get more information:

If you want more information you many contact the WWDC in any of the following ways:

Mailing address:

Water Development Commission Herschler Building, 4th Floor Cheyenne, Wyoming 82002 307-777-7626

Email address: egreen@missc.state.wy.us

Web page address: http://waterplan.state.wy.us


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