Gov. Matt Mead released his formal water strategy Thursday after almost two years of meetings and planning.
The plan calls for 10 reservoirs to be built in 10 years, full operation of Glendo Reservoir and completion of Fontenelle Reservoir in southwest Wyoming. It also calls for groundwater analysis, a creation of uniform and credible climate, weather and streamflow data and river restoration.
The strategy is a call to action, said Nephi Cole, Mead’s water policy adviser. It is not legally binding.
“We went out to the public to find out what the priorities were, and we believe these 10 items represent a consensus on things that need to be done, can be done and should be done in the state of Wyoming,” Cole said. “It is a statement of what we believe we need to work on, and we need to work on it now.”
Each of the 10 bullet points – from fish passage restoration to reservoir building – will be sent to its respective agency for planning. Cole anticipates agencies will build these priorities into their budget requests this summer.
Conservation groups are encouraged by some elements in the plan including the focus on fish passage, river restoration and collaboration.
“I think the data collection will be critical for putting together long-term goals for water management,” said Cory Toye, director of Trout Unlimited’s Wyoming Water Project. “This whole process, if nothing else, has certainly highlighted the need for partnerships with water use and water development. Whether or not these initiatives are successful, by the end of this term, I hope it has set the course for future discussions and a partnership model for water development in Wyoming.”
The "Ten in ten project," arguably the most controversial of the items, calls for the Wyoming Water Development Office to place a priority on identifying 10 small storage projects to be built in the next 10 years. The Water Development Office has identified at least 13 candidates for small reservoir projects in the state, Cole said.
“The plan is not inventing new locations for reservoirs [from the governor's office] -- we think that would be a bad idea,” Cole said. “But looking at opportunities that are already out there and moving into a planning and study phase.”
Projects under consideration could be accelerated by making them a priority through the plan, he said.
The Wyoming Outdoor Council hoped to see fewer water storage projects and more water conservation efforts addressed, said Amber Wilson, environmental quality coordinator for the Outdoor Council. But the council was happy to see that two reservoir projects on the Green River did not make the final proposal.
Greater availability and quality of information is important for good decision making regarding water, she said, and are goals the outdoor council supports.
The Wyoming Water Strategy is ultimately meant to give Wyoming a direction for the future managing its water, Cole said.
“Water is tied to everything we do in Wyoming. It is tied to everything we have done, and it is tied to everything we will do,” Mead wrote in the strategy. “The time for action is now, our strategy must move forward.”