DEQ releases categorical UAA after multi-year process
Cheyenne – After a process that started several years ago, on Sept. 1, the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) released the revised technical Categorical Use Attainability Analysis (UAA) for recreation that identifies low flow channels in Wyoming that are not used for swimming or similar water contact activities.
“This analysis is a big step toward ensuring that our streams have the appropriate protections for our citizens,” said Kevin Frederick, water quality administrator. “DEQ is confident that the revised designations will help the department better manage Wyoming’s surface waters and ensure that the uses of those waters are adequately protected.”
The revised analysis incorporates public feedback received prior to and during a public hearing in Casper, on Sept. 16, 2015. Since the project began in 2009, DEQ has improved the analysis based on the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and public feedback received through informal feedback, three written comment periods, a public meeting and an administrative hearing.
“DEQ sincerely appreciates the public’s participation in the development and revision of this analysis. Public comments have helped clarify the intent and improve the scope of the analysis,” added Frederick.
Last September’s hearing brought a wide audience and extensive comments. During the comment period on the UAA, 80 written comments and 30 verbal comments were received prior. “We’ve been working on this for quite a while,” said Lindsay Patterson of DEQ. “We’ve worked with EPA, the Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts (WACD) and other users to develop the UAA to distinguish between primary and secondary recreation uses.”
Patterson noted that the resulting model accurately predicts conditions on streams 95 percent of the time.
“The UAA is very conservative,” she said. “It designates more water for primary contact use than would be designated when in the field looking at conditions.”
Patterson continued, “It’s a science-based approach and a big improvement on the previous system, where all water – regardless of suitability and capability – would be designated as primary recreation use.”
With the public comment taken into account, Patterson and Frederick noted that several changes have been made in the model to reflect concerns.
“We certainly appreciate the input we received from members of the public,” he said.
In the changes, first and foremost, Frederick noted that Class One waters were withdrawn from the analysis. Class One waters include waters in wilderness areas, national parks and the Fish Creek Watershed near Wilson. Other streams and river that are designated as class one include portions of the Snake River, Green River, Wind River, North Platte River, Sand Creek, Middle Fork of the Powder River, North Fork and South Forks of Tongue Rivers, Sweetwater River, Encampment River, Clarks Fork River, Granite Creek.
Additionally, waters in Indian Country were withdrawn from the analysis, as were Wyoming and scenic rivers.
“It’s also important to note that we have also revised and updated the UAA worksheet to better inform and assist members of the public in asking DEQ to reconsider a designation,” Frederick added.
If members of the public disagree with a classification, the worksheet, which is available on DEQ’s website, can be filled out, and the public can request the designation be changed.
Keith Guille, Wyoming DEQ public information officer, says, “We’re not done. This is an ever-evolving document. If there are areas that the public sees should be primary, not secondary, they can request re-classification.”
In the August 2014 UAA, 27,598 miles of stream were designated as primary recreation contact, or 24 percent of Wyoming waters. Waters designated as secondary contact amounted to 87,775 miles, or 76 percent of stream miles.
The revised analysis includes 21,249 miles of primary recreation contact waters and 82,986 miles of secondary contact.
Waters removed from the analysis in the September 2016 revision include 8,059 miles of Class One waters, four miles of Wild and Scenic waters and 3,172 miles of waters in Indian Country.
Eighteen percent of Wyoming streams are designated for primary recreation contact, and 72 percent are designated for secondary contact.
According to DEQ, the public will be given 60 days to review this final analysis and can appeal designations to the Environmental Quality Council.
The revised designations will then be submitted to the EPA for approval. Individuals are encouraged to work with DEQ to modify recreational designated uses, where appropriate, at specific sites after the Recreation UAA has been submitted.
“We need to remember that this is not a designation in the sense of drinking water,” Frederick said. “This is for recreation, and that has been confused in the media. Anytime anyone is out recreating, they shouldn’t be consuming the water. It’s important that people realize recreation waters are not for consumption.”
Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.