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Water projects First 10-in-10 project breaks ground

Written by Saige

Big PineyOn July 18, Gov. Matt Mead joined Forest Service, Wyoming Water Development Office (WWDO) and others for the groundbreaking ceremony of the first project in Gov. Mead’s 10-in-10 initiative.

The project, a dam at Middle Piney Reservoir, is a Level II rehabilitation that will improve the dam and allow for water storage to the reservoir’s capacity. 

Middle Piney

In the early 1900s, Middle Piney Reservoir was formed on Forest Service land after a landslide blocked part of the river. In 1919, a permit was issued for construction of an earthen dam, which was built over the landslide. 

The project was completed in 1939, but today, the dam has a lot of seepage, limiting its efficacy, and Wyoming Water Development Office Director Harry LaBonde explained, if the dam gave way, the result would be “catastrophic failure.”

Water storage

The dam impounds 21 feet of active storage, on top of the natural lake. Because Middle Piney Dam does not meet current federal and state safety standards, it has not been allowed to store water for nearly 20 years.

Private irrigators owning water rights from Middle Piney Reservoir gave control of reservoir to the Forest Service, in an attempt to address the problems seen in the dam, said LaBonde, who added, “The Forest Service isn’t geared up to operate reservoirs so it fell into further disrepair.”

As is the case for any water storage project, it must provide a “beneficial use,” which at Middle Piney is late season irrigation. In addition to irrigation, the high-mountain lake’s stored water is used for conservation and recreation. 

Rehabilitation

The state considered trying to acquire the dam, but the Forest Service would require a lengthy process so WWDO decided to proceed with repairs due to public safety without acquiring the site, he said.

The state obtained a 30-year special-use permit to “put this reservoir back in place and put this water back to beneficial use,” LaBonde said.

The State of Wyoming, through the Wyoming Water Development Commission (WWDC), has funded the analysis, permitting, design, and construction of the Project, which will address dam deficiencies, restore the active storage pool and stabilize the access road.

The first stage will be to strip away part of the existing dam down into the landslide piece to strengthen the structure. The $12-million project is slated for completion by 2022. WWDC and the Middle Piney Watershed Improvement District will operate and maintain the reservoir through a long term Special Use Permit.

Groundbreaking

During a groundbreaking ceremony on the project, Mead was joined by a distinguished panel, who offered remarks during a ceremony at the reservoir. 

Select Water Committee Chairman Rep. Hans Hunt (R-Newcastle) commented, “The groundbreaking of the first 10-in-10 projects is the beginning of an initiative that is anticipated to boost the capacity of Wyoming water holdings significantly, the end result of which will benefit a diverse group of water users across the state.”

Hunt noted Gov. Mead’s Water Strategy and proposal for 10 reservoirs in 10 years is a large and forward-thinking initiative to boost water storage capacity in Wyoming. While an ambitious goal, Hunt comments, “I’m optimistic that Wyomingites will be able to achieve 10-in-10.” 

Joy Ufford of the Pinedale Roundup and Sublette Examiner and Saige Albert of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup co-wrote this article. Send comments to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..