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Wyoming Water Development Commission Spring 1998

Basin Advisory Group Begins Work

In this issue...

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 Group.

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 these areas.

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 planning information now available on the Internet

Information on the Wyoming State Water Planning Process may now be accessed on the Internet. The address of the web page is The public can find out general facts about water planning in Wyoming through newsletter articles and summaries of ongoing activities. The State Water Planning Questionnaire report is also on the site, as are all minutes from public advisory group meetings. The public can also link to the Wyoming Water Development Commission and Wyoming State Engineer's Office from the water planning home page.

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, 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 feasibility study.

"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 Irrigation District.)

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 study.

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 Legislature.

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.

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