Wyo Water Development Commission finalizes rules for small water program
On Oct. 19, the Wyoming Water Development Commission (WWDC) met during a special meeting in Casper to discuss criteria for several of their programs, including the small water project program.
Wyoming Water Development Director Harry LaBonde noted revisions were made to small water program criteria to reflect public comments made last summer on the criteria.
A handful of changes were made to reflect concerns from the public, including the size of stock ponds, addition of new uses for the program and elimination of study requirements.
“Previously, the program would fund stock reservoirs, or only reservoirs up to 20 feet in height and no more than 20 acre-feet,” LaBonde said. “That language has been modified to just allow small reservoirs.”
As a result, larger reservoirs will be allowed funding under the program.
“We also clarified the process under which WWDC will fund stock wells for unproven reservoirs,” he explained. “If an aquifer is well-documented, then there is no issue funding stock wells, but occasionally we’ll get a request to drill a well in an area without previous groundwater production, which qualifies as an unproven aquifer.”
LaBonde continued, “We will only fund the well if it, in fact, produces water, of adequate quality and quantity.”
In addition to increasing reservoir size, WWDC added several additional approved uses for small water program project funds.
“The Commission added rural community fire suppression and recreation projects as acceptable under the small water project program,” LaBonde commented.
He continued, “This change allows us to fund rural community fire suppression. Some rural fire districts like to stage water supplies in areas that are particularly remote. Oftentimes, if they are fighting fires, it is a long way to go back into town to fill a truck.”
Allowing construction of small water projects for the express use of rural fire suppression allows strategic placement of small, concrete vaults that are strategically located to better allow districts to fight fires.
“Recreation is a new use, as well, and it’s wide open,” LaBonde said, noting that WWDC may receive a wide variety of projects.
Though recreation is listed, LaBonde emphasized that priority schedules provide that recreation is the sixth of six priorities under the small water projects program.
Prior to last week, a requirement was in place for the small water program which mandates a watershed study or the equivalent in place before a project was eligible for funding.
“This item has been controversial, but they decided to essentially remove the requirement,” LaBonde said, adding that several minor edits were also made to the criteria.
One existing requirement for the program dictates that a sponsoring entity would adhere to design standards provided by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), an appropriate land management agency or the State Engineer.
“There was a public comment that came in that noted NRCS may be busy and, in some cases, federal land management agencies aren’t responsive, which holds up the project,” LaBonde explained. “The comment asked that professional engineers or geologists be able to provide the standards.”
The resulting change specifies that project plans must prepared by NRCS, an appropriate land management agency, professional engineers or geologists.
LaBonde said, “This change allows a private sector option that provides more flexibility to the sponsor.”
Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock and can be reached at email@example.com.