Current Edition

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Water Quality

Following the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) Spring Legislative Conference, Scott Yager, NCBA’s environmental counsel,  noted that he asked members to reach out to their representatives in Congress and ask for their support in a formal investigation into the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) latest campaign against the agriculture industry.

“There are a number of bus placards and billboards in the state of Washington that show cows standing in a stream,” Yager said. “It says unregulated agriculture is putting our waterways at risk.”

Yager continued that a flashy website accompanies the campaign, allowing visitors to submit an email letter to Washington state legislators, asking for their support for more highly regulated agriculture.

“It turns out, this whole campaign was funded by an EPA Region X federal grant,” he said. “Just to be clear, federal money is not supposed to be used for lobbying. It’s illegal.”

A $570,000 grant was funneled to a partnership between an environmental group and an Indian tribe in the state, who paid for the campaign.

“This clearly attempts to lobby the public and legislators to increase regulations of agriculture,” Yager added.

With the support of NCBA members, a letter from 145 members of the House of Representatives, drafted by Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.), was sent to EPA.

“Sens. Inhoff and Roberts also asked for a formal investigation, as did Rep. Mike Conaway,” Yager continued. “There was a big push to take down those billboards, as well as the bus placards and the lobbying component of the website.”

With the removal of the propaganda, Yager noted that steps are being taken in the right direction, but he also noted that there are a number of steps that must be taken still.

“Another big thing that has happened is the EPA Inspector General is going to initiate a formal investigation,” he said. “That will allow us to say what went wrong, if there was a violation and what we can do to fix it so it never happens again in the future.”

The trend from EPA, said Yager, seems to be one of EPA using – or misusing – federal monies to lobby.

“They can’t do that,” he added. “There is a Government Accountability Office legal opinion that states the EPA conducted improper lobbying and use of propaganda in the way that they solicited comments for the Waters of the U.S. rule.”

“This seems like round two of the same situation,” Yager said. “Federal money should be used for its intended purpose and not for lobbying purposes. We’re going to do everything we can do to make sure that happens.”

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Douglas –The Pathway to Water Quality exhibit is a new attraction making its debut on the state fairgrounds this year. Designed as an outdoor classroom, the exhibit combines the efforts of multiple agencies, landowners and community citizens to implement voluntary measures to enhance and protect Wyoming’s water resources.
Completion of the project will take several years, but demonstrations for children and adults will be held during the 2010 state fair.
“We started the pathway in front of the Agriculture and Natural Resource building and will have a courtyard there. Demonstration sites will look at different ways to manage and protect water quality. They are designed as take-home demonstrations that can be applied to a variety of situations in both rural and urban environments,” explains Southeast Wyoming Coordinator with Wyoming Natural Resource Conservation Service Grant Stumbough.
The entire pathway will be constructed using a new material known as drivable grass, which is comprised of little blocks of pervious concrete. Grass or sand can be placed between each block, hence the name. Below the top layer is six inches of gravel and below that is six inches of sand. The pathway is designed as a filter to absorb excess water that would otherwise run off. Upon absorption, the gravel and sand filters the water rather than it simply running off into the river.
“When complete, the pathway will probably be about half a mile long and the entire path will be made using drivable grass. In addition to acting as filter, the pathway will guide people along a myriad of water quality exhibits and demonstrations complete with informative signs at each stop. There will be several wetlands and retention ponds for the cleaned water to flow into. Trees will be planted and grass plots will be placed along the pathway with information on each grass species, similar to what was previously located in front of the Agriculture and Natural Resource building. We have a variety of project and demonstration ideas to consider and implement over the next ten years,” notes Stumbough.
The project is funded in part by a $20,000 Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) grant and has currently been pre-approved for a Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) offered through the NRCS in the amount of $84,000. Donations from industry participants are also being utilized and Stumbough says more people are becoming involved all the time.
A plastic mesh called Eco-grid is anther product similar to drivable grass that Stumbaugh is excited about for livestock producers.
“This is a product designed for use where there is a lot of livestock traffic and manure, such as corrals. Below the mesh are about six inches of gravel and six inches of sand. You can also plant grass right over the top of the mesh. It acts much like drivable grass in that it absorbs and filters excess fluids instead of allowing them to run off, thus converting it to clean ground or surface water,” explains Stumbough.
“The whole idea is to prevent excess water from becoming run off and being wasted. With these products if it absorbed, cleaned and re-used,” he adds.
For more information on these products contact Grant Stumbough at 307-332-9060. To see samples of either product stop by the newly constructed courtyard in front of the Agriculture and Natural Resource building during the 2010 Wyoming State Fair. Heather Hamilton is editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

New guidelines released by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers push the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act (CWA) farther than it’s ever been before, but not quite as far as those proposed by Congress last year.
The guidelines, of which the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is also a part, are known as the “Draft Guidance on Identifying Waters Protected by the Clean Water Act.” The notice of their release was published in the May 2 edition of the Federal Register.
“From what I understand, they go as far as they think they can get by with,” says Wyoming Stock Growers Association Executive Vice President Jim Magagna. “They go in the direction that Congress tried before with the Clean Water Restoration Act, and they would basically try to incorporate every type of body of water they could.”
The U.S. Cattlemen’s Association (USCA) cautions that the guidelines would broaden the overall scope of regulatory targets under the Clean Water Act, allowing for an increased number of waterways to fall within the jurisdiction of the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The guidelines expand coverage of the CWA to bodies of water that have a “significant nexus” to traditional navigable waters or interstate waters already covered by the law. These include tributaries to traditional navigable waters or interstate waters, wetlands that are adjacent to such jurisdictional tributaries and “other waters” within close physical proximity to waters already covered by the law, and which affect the chemical, physical or biological integrity of traditional navigable waters or interstate waters, as well as “other waters” physically separated from tributaries or waterways subject to the law.
The 39-page document also focuses on “innovative partnerships” in which the Obama administration hopes to engage with state, local and tribal governments, as well as the private sector, to enhance water quality. USCA says this will encompass water quality standards and maximum daily load programs governing discharges into water bodies, likely expanding the application of the law’s water-related permitting requirements.
Prior to release of the guidelines, in a bipartisan fashion, Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK), chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Agriculture, joined 169 of his Democrat and Republican colleagues in sending a letter to the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers expressing concerns with moving forward with the new guidance.
“While the agencies may claim the guidance is legally nonbinding, the truth is the administration has defined regulatory terms that will ultimately lead to over-regulation and intrusion into individual and states’ rights,” said the congressmen.  
“Once again, the EPA is trying to broaden its jurisdiction without authority to do so,” they continued. “Changes to the regulatory scheme of the Clean Water Act should be done through notice and rulemaking or legislative action. Issuing a guidance document is informal and ambiguous. If this is important to the administration, we urge it to reconsider this approach and move forward with a transparent rulemaking process.”
USCA leadership says the proposed guidelines should be a cause for immediate concern by livestock producers across the country because they would “increase compared to current practice” the number of waters identified as being protected under the law and build a foundation to expand federal jurisdiction over a wide variety of waterways that could potentially include ditches and stock ponds.
“Protecting the health of our waterways is important to all of us, farmers and ranchers included. However, these new guidelines are an onerous approach to that goal and they underscore the federal government’s escalating overreach into our daily operations,” comments USCA President Jon Wooster. “The broad nature of these guidelines imposes more government regulation and intervention into ranching and farming businesses, and leaves producers vulnerable to additional permitting costs and requirements as well as litigation. USCA opposes these guidelines and will work to expand opposition among policy-makers.”
Comments on the guidelines will be accepted through July 1.
Christy Martinez is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


With the high levels of bacteria in the watershed of the Big Horn River, the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), along with Respec Consulting and Services, calculated the total maximum daily load (TMDL) for the river and provided residents with some solutions to reduce bacterial contamination
    “A TMDL is supposed to be used to help restore water quality limited streams where current technology-based measures aren’t stringent enough to protect the water quality,” explained Wyoming DEQ TMDL Coordinator Kevin Hyatt.
    After holding several public meetings and compiling research, Hyatt and Project Manager at Respec Consulting and Services Jared Oswald hosted meetings on July 11-12 to reveal their findings.
Why TMDL?
    Hyatt noted that section 303d of the Clean Water Act (CWA) provides for TMDLs, saying, “When permitted limits aren’t stringent enough that they are still causing water quality impairments, a TMDL is used to help further clarify how those permitted sources are allowed to discharge.”
    Hyatt also noted that TMDLs are also used to help control nonpoint source pollution, or pollution washed off the land and directed into a stream.
    “Truly, it is really designed to help identify what is causing the impairment to the stream and help develop mitigation measures or management actions to help reduce the pollution to bring the stream back into compliance,” he continued. “It is really the only control method that the CWA prescribes to control nonpoint source pollution.”
    In the Big Horn River drainage, fecal coliforms and E. coli are polluting water.
Preserving beneficial use
    Hyatt noted that the goal of the TMDL project is to preserve the beneficial use of the affected waters.
    “For example, in the Big Horn Basin, recreation in some areas is being impaired due to fecal coliform, or E. coli, and there are multiple sources,” he explained. “People in those communities rely on tourism through fishing, for example. If tourists hear the stream is impaired for bacteria, that could hurt the industry.”
    There are a number of other potential impacts of poor water quality and levels of bacteria that are too high, mentioned Hyatt.
    “We are trying to ensure the uses of the waters are protected for everybody,” he adds.
Public meetings
    Wyoming DEQ, Respec and conservation districts in the affected area held two public meetings in February to gather information from the public.
    “The last set of public meetings was really to try to get more information about specific land uses and activities that were occurring,” said Hyatt, who added that they looked at factors like how long livestock inhabited specific areas of watershed.
    By defining when and where livestock are moved, Hyatt said that DEQ received insight from the public on what occurs in each of the drainage basins.
    “We got some additional insight on potential areas where wildlife could be contributing to the problem,” he mentioned.
    The public meetings also served to explain the models that would be used to the public, and Hyatt said, “We wanted to show the folks that modeling we were using actually fit well with flow data that we have, and that we do have calibrations lined up with real data.”
    In validating the data, modeled predictions are more accurate.
Next steps
    At this set of public meetings, results showed what the stream can handle, as well as areas that are over limits and what is causing the increase in bacteria.
    Respec also developed an implementation plan. The implementation plan is designed to complement the watershed plans developed in conservation districts. Oswald noted that the information provided at this meeting was still in its draft form, and DEQ may provide some revisions on a completion of their review.
    “The conservation districts already have watershed plans written, which essentially have management actions to help reduce pollution, so we try to help what they have already done by refining those and adding some additional suggestions,” Hyatt said. “We take that report to the community to try to get them to start implementing those actions.”
    Hyatt emphasized that the suggestions for nonpoint source pollution control are voluntary actions designed to improve the watershed.
    “The next step is to try to get the community involved in implementing the things we are suggesting,” said Hyatt. “If we can get a lot of people to do a little bit, it will hopefully add up to enough to reach the levels we need.”
    He also mentioned that there is no enforcement or penalty, but if a stream continues to be polluted, DEQ takes additional steps to look at why actions are being implemented or why they aren’t working.
The results
    “We are seeing bacteria from rangeland influence and some cropland influence,” explained Oswald. “This is still a draft that the DEQ is reviewing.”
    Oswald also noted that the information is generalized due to the size of the watershed.
    “There is some bacteria getting washed off of cropland that is getting irrigated,” he added. “Irrigation efficiency can help solve this. If we can reduce the amount of water that returns to the stream, for example, by converting from flood to sprinkler irrigation, we will see some reduction.”
    Rangeland influences also result in some bacteria in the river, and Oswald suggested use of off-stream water supplies and rotational grazing to help alleviate that source.
    “We are not looking at the level of what species is causing this, we are just looking at land use from which it comes,” Oswald mentioned, noting that neither livestock nor wildlife can specifically be targeted.
    “This has been a fun process, and we are just about finished,” Oswald said. “We have submitted the draft to the DEQ, and the local steering committee is also reviewing the document.”
    For more information on the Big Horn River TMDL, visit deq.state.wy.us and search “Big Horn TDML.” Saige Albert is editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

TMDL efforts continue in the Big Horn Basin
    Another total maximum daily load (TMDL) project will be done on the Shoshone River, as a result of several children developing gastrointestinal illnesses after swimming n the river.
    “We investigated further and identified that the river is impaired with E. coli,” said Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality TMDL Coordinator Kevin Hyatt. “We are starting a TMDL up there as well.”




Cheyenne – Wyoming’s groundwater is a vital natural resource supplying water for households, irrigation, industry and healthy ecosystems. Approximately 133,400 domestic, stock watering, municipal, irrigation, industrial and miscellaneous uses of groundwater are currently permitted in Wyoming.

In recognition of National Groundwater Awareness Week, the Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts (WACD) and Wyoming Natural Resource Foundation (WNRF) are educating homeowners about construction of new groundwater wells.

“It is important for landowners to understand the process for permitting, siting and constructing a groundwater well to responsibly utilize our water resources for years to come,” WACD Executive Director Bobbie Frank said.

Regulation

Regulations pertaining to construction of water wells fall under the purview of two state agencies. 

The Wyoming State Engineer’s Office (SEO) has general supervision of Wyoming waters. An approved Application for Permit to Appropriate Ground Water must be obtained from the SEO prior to well construction.

The Department of Environmental Quality, Water Quality Division (WDEQ) does not regulate the construction of domestic, private wells, but recommends well construction design comply with Chapter 26 and Chapter 12, Section Nine of Wyoming Water Quality Rules and Regulations, which apply to public wells.

Prior to drilling a new well, a homeowner must file an application with the SEO and obtain approval of that application for a permit to make an appropriation for beneficial use of underground water. This is called a U.W. 5 Form or Application for Permit to Appropriate Ground Water. 

Construction standards for all water wells are outlined in the SEO’s Water Well Minimum Construction Standards (2010). 

Siting importance

Properly sited domestic water wells will ensure the well is less susceptible to contamination. 

The distance between a well and potential contamination sources is referred to as a “setback” and provides a margin of security in the event of an accident or spill. If possible, wells should be located at a high point to prevent surface water runoff contaminating the wellhead area. 

Wells should also be located up-gradient from potential sources of contamination and located toward the center of the lot for better control over land use around the well. 

Cost and depth

Landowners should also research information on established water wells in the area to help estimate depth and cost of a well. 

The SEO maintains an electronic database of all permitted well data that is accessible to the public. Other professional sources can provide important information about well siting, geologists, hydrogeologists and licensed well and pump contractors familiar with the area.

Many factors can affect a well, including physical characteristics and slope of the water bearing formations, depth to water, recharge area and surface topography. Gathering information on the hydrology and geology of the area will improve chances of developing a productive well. 

WDEQ advises that the cost of having good professional assistance before drilling a new well may be far less than the cost of additional drilling to replace a poorly designed or sited well.

Licensing

Since 2008, water well and pump installation contractors must be licensed by the state.

The Wyoming Water Well Contractors Licensing Board administers the licensing program for well drillers and pump installers. 

The public can search for licensed contractors or view rules related to well construction in Wyoming at wwcb.state.wy.us/home.aspx or by calling Board Administrator Lynn Ritter at 307-857-4169.

Completion

After the well construction is complete, landowners are also responsible for maintaining a well in good condition to prevent contamination of the groundwater supply.

The WDEQ has several fact sheets on determining siting for new wells, setback distances, contaminant sources and well construction at http://deq.state.wy.us/wqd/groundwater/index.asp

To learn more about groundwater well permitting, siting, design and maintenance, contact a local Conservation District by visiting conservewy.com, call the SEO at 307-777-6163 or call the WDEQ at 307-777-7781.

About WACD, WNRF

The Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts (WACD) provides leadership for the conservation of Wyoming’s soil, water and all other natural resources. WACD works to preserve and enhance wildlife habitat, protect the tax base and promote the health, safety and general welfare of Wyoming citizens through a responsible conservation ethic. 

The Wyoming Natural Resource Foundation (WNRF) is dedicated to conserving Wyoming’s natural resources, heritage and culture. 

A sister organization to WACD, WNRF has established partnerships with many local, state and federal agencies, as well as private and volunteer organizations to serve as a strong foundation for all future efforts initiated by WACD and WNRF. 

Call 307-632-5716 or visit conservewy.com to learn more.

Liz Lauck is a correspondent for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..