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Water Development continues toward working on revised basin plans

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Buffalo – In 1973, the state of Wyoming embarked on writing a statewide water plan. A number of years later in 1997, a group of people got together and decided an update was needed, so they went to the Wyoming Legislature to look at how the plan might apply across the state. 

“The Legislature told them to go ahead,” said Jodee Pring, project manager at the Wyoming Water Development Office (WWDO). “In 1999, they started with two plans – the Green River Basin and Bear River Basin plans were completed.”


After a number of people across the state complimented the work, water basin planning efforts were expanded across every basin in the state. 

“In 2002, the Snake/Salt and Wind/Bighorn River Basin Plans were completed. Also in 2002, the Powder/Tongue and Northeast plans were completed,” Pring continued. “In 2006, the Platte was completed.”

Then, in 2007, the WWDO completed its first framework basin plan. 

“We made a deal with the legislature that we would update these plans every few years,” Pring said. “We started these updates in 2010.”

Updates were conducted on the Green, Wind/Bighorn, Bear and Snake/Salt River Basin Plans from 2010-14, and the Platte River Basin Plan will be complete in 2016. 

Powder and Tongue Rivers

“That brings us to the Powder/Tongue and Northeast plans,” Pring commented, noting that the agency was awaiting the resolution of Montana v. Wyoming and North Dakota prior to beginning planning in the Powder/Tongue River Basin. “We are comfortable with where that case stands, and we are starting our update on the Powder/Tongue and Northeast River Basin Plans.”

The Wyoming Legislature appropriated $375,000 to complete the update, and an additional $275,00 has been allotted to do a groundwater study. 

“The surface and groundwater studies will be done at the same time.  The  Wyoming State Geological Survey and the U.S. Geological Survey will complete the groundwater portion of the study,” Pring explained. “They have done the groundwater plans for our other river basins, as well.”

She further noted that a plethora of information on the planning efforts is available at the WWDO website. 

Plan complications

Pring noted that the Powder/Tongue and Northeast River Basin Plan Update does have some additional aspects that have not occurred with other plans. 

“We are going to do the same things we have done with many others,” she explained. “We will update demand projections and current basin water use.”

She continued, “We are going to do a couple of things as part of a separate spreadsheet model update.”

For example, WWDO will analyze  the Hydrologic Unit Code-12 (HUC) hydrology  and do an annual and peak runoff estimate for each of those watersheds. HUC-12 is a sequence of numbers used  to identify a hydrological feature. 

“This  analysis will give us an idea of the water available for potential reservoirs,” Pring mentioned. “As most people already know, the Governor’s Water Strategy hopes to build 10 reservoirs in 10 years, and we are concentrating on also looking to see if we might be able to build reservoirs in these watersheds.”

Consultants will also take a closer look at environmental  use and recreational use and how those uses fit with traditional uses, as well. 

“We know there is a lot of competition between those uses, but often they are complimentary,” Pring said. “We want to see how those uses play out.”

Watershed protection

Finally, Pring mentions that an additional task to be performed will be called the Watershed Fire Information task.   

“This was prompted from Director Harry LaBonde’s involvement with the Governor’s Task Force on Forest Health,” Pring said. “They issued a report and recommended developing  cross-jurisdictional watershed protection plans for municipalities relying heavily on forested watersheds.”

After catastrophic fires in watersheds providing Denver, Colo.’s water, LaBonde suggested that forested watersheds should be analyzed for their vulnerability to fire. 

Looking forward

Interviews for a consultant to head up the project occurred at the beginning of May. After selecting a consultant, a series of meetings will be held to gather stakeholder information. 

“In September and October will have three open houses across the basin,” Pring explained. “We will send notices and advertise those open houses.”

Throughout the process, six additional meetings will be held to ensure the consultant is on the right track. 

“We will also have three more open houses and ask for involvement before the plan goes into final draft,” she said. “Stay tuned for more information.”

Pring spoke at the Powder/Tongue River Basin Advisory Group meeting on April 21.

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at 

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