WWDC, Select Water Committee focus on reservoir projects at November meeting
Casper – During a Nov. 6-7 joint meeting, the Wyoming Water Development Commission (WWDC) and the Select Water Committee of the Wyoming Legislature met and discussed a variety of projects in preparing funding recommendations for the 2015 General Session of the Wyoming Legislature.
“It was a busy meeting, and we had a large agenda,” said WWDC Director Harry LaBonde. “There were lots of projects to consider.”
“We were handling a total of 11 reservoir projects, three of which are new in our system,” LaBonde noted. “Folks are getting the word out that the state is interested in building new storage, so they are bringing forward more projects.”
“I think it is good that we are seeing new storage projects in our system,” he added. “The state has been focused on storage recently.”
LaBonde further noted that WWDC has not been as successful as they have hoped in building new reservoirs, but recent support from Governor Matt Mead in his Water Strategy has bolstered the efforts to increase water storage in the state.
“When I was appointed almost three years ago, I was very interested in building new storage,” he said. “We have had some discussions, and storage is back in the public eye, so we have had more requests related to storage projects.”
The first project approved came from the Greybull Valley Irrigation District. The storage enlargement project expands the capacity of the system.
“Currently, the Greybull Valley Irrigation District owns three reservoirs – Upper Sunshine, Lower Sunshine and Roach Gulch,” LaBonde explained. “Roach Gulch was a water development project we built 10 years ago, but the last five years, we have had a couple of runoffs where there was water that could have been stored but there was no room.”
The level two watershed study looks at the feasibly of a facility for water storage to be built.
“The second project is the Meeks Cabin Dam Enlargement in Blacks Fork country,” he said. “That is an existing Bureau of Reclamation facility, and we identified through our watershed planning process that there was a need for additional storage.”
The project request looks at enlarging the reservoir to provide additional storage.
The third reservoir project is the New Fork Lake Dam enlargement project. The dam is owned by an irrigation district, and the district is looking to enlarge it to capture more water.
“The project is on the New Fork River, but ultimately, that is a tributary to the Green River,” LaBonde commented.
“We also had several projects that we conditioned,” LaBonde noted. “They are subject to approval of a water service agreement being put in place.”
The two projects that were approved subject to a water service agreement are both municipal water projects.
“We had a project request that came through the system with level one and level two studies completed,” LaBonde explained. “They approached the WWDC for level three funding.”
The Lower No Wood Rural Water Supply project requested $1,423,750 to construct a transmission pipeline to approximately 20 houses in the No Wood River Valley.
“The No Wood River Valley has very poor quality water, with high amounts of total dissolved solids and high sulfates,” he continued. “It isn’t suitable for human consumption.”
The preferred plan for construction involved connecting to a transmission line in the South Circle Estates subdivision, which gets their water from the town of Ten Sleep.
“We are just completing the tie-in of the South Circle Estates into the Ten Sleep water system,” LaBonde noted. “Ten Sleep is the provider, and they are on record saying they are not interested in supplying water to the Lower No Wood project.”
Ten Sleep is concerned as a result of uncertainty as to how their system will function under the additional demand of South Circle Estates without the stress of the Lower No Wood project as well.
“They were not ready to allow that,” LaBonde said. “We left the project with Ten Sleep looking at how well their system performs this summer during peak water demand. They will reassess their decision at the end of next summer.”
The project’s funding is subject to an acceptable water service agreement being developed between Ten Sleep, South Circle Estates and the Lower No Wood.
“We really support Ten Sleep as a regional water provider, and my request is that they consider it,” LaBonde added.
A second similar project exists outside of Newcastle, in which Newcastle provides water to the Cambria Improvement Service District, which is adjacent to the Sweetwater Improvement Service District.
“Sweetwater needs to upgrade their water system, and the best solution is to tie into the Cambria Improvement Service District,” LaBonde explains. “Both an upgrade to Cambria and a connection and transmission line were approved, conditional upon an acceptable water service agreement in place.”
At this point, LaBonde noted that WWDC and the Select Water Committee will meet again on Dec. 11-12 to finalize the Draft Omnibus Water Planning and Omnibus Water Construction bills.
“Once they approve the bills, they will be presented in the legislature,” LaBonde said.
He also added that the new Select Water Committee will not be appointed until the end of the legislative session, but the bills are vetted by the Agriculture, State and Public Lands and Water Resources Committee prior to be heard by the whole legislature.
Harry LaBonde, director of the Wyoming Water Development Commission (WWDC), noted that WWDC has three accounts available for water development projects.
Account One is for new development projects, and the balance of the account sits at $65,699,000. The WWDC saw $38.7 million in requests from the account.
“In Account Two, we have an account balance of $6,510,000, in round numbers,” LaBonde said. “We have $15,832,000 in requests, and that is obviously a problem.”
LaBonde further noted that he submitted a supplemental request to Governor Mead to include an additional $18.6 million in funding for Account Two.
“There are also a couple of larger projects looming out there that we have not seen applications for yet,” he added.
Account Three, which cover dams and reservoirs, has a balance of $171.6 million. A total of $18.5 million was requested from the fund.
Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.