Not so much of a renewable resource.
Over the past three or four years, there has been a push to build a dam on Alkali Creek in Big Horn County and enlarge the Leavitt reservoir, also in Big Horn County, all in the name of capturing more water. Fortunately those two projects have not gotten the nod from the state. There are several dams in the state that probably need attention those being LaPerle, Fontenelle Reservoir and the Goshen Irrigation tunnel. These have been in operation for many years and just as any part of infrastructure, there is a need for maintenance. With the funds available in our rainy-day account, which is the largest among all states, that $1 billion would beneficial. But now there are investigations and political clout gathering information in an effort to exchange some state school sections with the U. S. Forest Service for land in the Medicine Bow National Forest.
By exchanging lands and building the dam on state property there would be fewer environmental guidelines to follow. Currently the estimated cost is $82 million. Proponents argue that the tradeoff is the $73.7 million in public benefits after completion. This is being considered on the whims of between 67 to 100 irrigators in Wyoming and Colorado.
Wyoming is one of the three driest states in the Colorado River Basin States so it begs the question – why build a dam at this point in time. Some research indicates that the total annual evaporation loss could be up to 50 percent of the dams’ total storage volume. If Lower Basin States make an effort to reduce water consumption it would be an act of good faith to show all of the Colorado River Basin states that Wyoming is willing to work together to come up with a workable solution.
Senior water rights will undoubtedly be questioned and some unqualified water rights held by some native tribes could be considered. When it comes to water for food crops or hay meadows, I believe the scale will be weighted toward the food crops. The only people that will not squeal will be the native Indian tribes – they have been used to getting the short straw.
“People’s minds are changed through observation not through argument.”