Green River Basin Advisory Group
Lyman City Hall, Lyman WY
August 8, 2000
Facilitator Joe Lord welcomed the group and the meeting was opened at 5:00 p.m. The
overall meeting agenda was reviewed, followed by an introduction of all attendees. A
sign-in sheet was passed around to record attendance. Joe Lord reviewed the meeting
agenda, group mission statement, and the adopted rules.
Planning Team Issues
Jon Wade provided a rundown of the upcoming meeting schedule:
|September 12, 2000
|October 10, 2000
|November 7, 2000
Mr. Wade also briefly discussed the schedule for upcoming BAG meetings in Northeast
Mr. Ben Bracken was then introduced to the group to discuss recent activities of the
Colorado River Water Users Association (CRWUA). The CRWUA is partnering in a
made-for-TV documentary of the Colorado River. The program, hosted and directed by
Huell Howser , will be a human interest story of people whose lives revolve in and
around the Colorado River and its tributaries. For Wyoming's side of the story, Ben feels
we need a "hook" to hold viewers' interest and assure more than token airtime. The
selling point may well be the basin planning process and the various water users brought
together each month. Ben suggested that the September BAG meeting may work as a
focus for Mr. Howser's work in Wyoming, and asked if the BAG had any opposition to
being included in the program. One issue to be handled is that the date of the BAG
meeting (September 12) may have to be flexible if Mr. Howser's schedule requires
After some discussion, it was determined to try and meet with Howser, even if it involves
some change in the BAG meeting date. However, if the delay is significant, it was
suggested to hold the September meeting as scheduled and move up the October meeting
for that purpose.
No consultant presentation was made.
A presentation that had been postponed from the July BAG meeting was made
concerning the State Engineer's Office Water Conservation Program, and proposed
changes to State Water Law.
Mr. Ron Vore presented information on the Wyoming State Engineer's Office's water
conservation program. The conservation program was undertaken as a cooperative effort
between the Wyoming State Engineer's Office and the USBR two years ago. The
program is intended to educate water users on the benefits of conservation, describe
voluntary efforts that can be undertaken to conserve water, and provide contact
information for assistance in funding conservation projects.
Mr. Vore's presentation presented possibilities for conservation in municipal/household,
industrial and agricultural uses. Because most of Wyoming's consumptive use is created
by agriculture, most of his discussion was geared toward agricultural water conservation.
The primary source of inefficiency in agricultural applications is conveyance loss.
Examples of conservation (reduction in conveyance loss) in agricultural practices include
lining canals, gated pipe, sprinklers, surge valves and soil amendments.
Other mechanisms for conserving water that do not directly involve reducing conveyance
loss include changing crops, construction of "upper reach" impoundments (delaying
runoff by storing water high in a watershed), creation of plant diversity and forage along
streambanks (riparian improvement) and streambank storage (also riparian
Concluding, Mr. Vore said that the success of conservation efforts increase when they are
incentive-driven and users have to maintain a balance between consumptive and non-
consumptive uses. To do this, the following points must be remembered:
- We must recognize traditional use values,
- We must recognize future use interests,
- We must recognize that conservation solutions are complex,
- We need to develop incentives and options,
Following Ron's discussion, Sue Lowry was introduced to discuss proposed changes to
Wyoming Water Law. Primarily, these changes cover two topics: defining salvage uses
and expanding temporary uses. Right now the salvage water definition bill and the
temporary change language amendments have been authorized to be drafted and
circulated for public comment by the Joint Agriculture Committee, while the permanent
change of use amendments have not yet been approved for development in draft bill
In essence, the salvage bill allows the owner of a right who salvages (save water through
efficiency increases, etc.) to retain the right to the salvaged water for subsequent
beneficial use. The draft bill expanding the definition of temporary uses would include
nonconsumptive beneficial uses (i.e. instream flows) in the definition. Sue then provided
examples of when and how this new legislation would be used and discussed some of the
issues currently facing the Wyoming State Engineer's Office on these topics. Both draft
bills have evolved from repeated requests over time to the Wyoming State Engineer's
Office asking since water rights are property rights, how restrictive should those rights be
when it comes to changing them?
Both draft proposals allow the water under a right to move to beneficial uses, which may
be nonconsumptive. The temporary use language could also allow the use of subject
water at a point other than the original appropriator's point of diversion. Both of these
concepts prompted debate.
One commenter stated that you can't "brand" water, and that implementation of these
changes would have detrimental effects when administration is required. Also, the
commenter stated that changing water administration laws with 120 years of history
behind them would simply invite lawsuits. It was also noted that once you give such
language to the legislature, you're never sure what you will get back in the form of law as
Flaming Gorge Dam Operations, Ed Vidmar
After Ms. Lowry's presentation, Mr. Ed Vidmar of the US Bureau of Reclamation, Upper
Colorado Regional Office, made a presentation on the recommended changes to
operations at Flaming Gorge Dam.
The four endangered fish in the Green/Colorado River Basins have prompted an
Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the proposed modifications to Flaming Gorge
operation. These fish, the Colorado pikeminnow, bonytail, humpback chub and the
razorback sucker, need flooded backwaters for successful reproduction. Scientific studies
have indicated that 18,000 cfs is needed in the river at Jensen, Utah for this spawning
flow. Since construction, storage in Flaming Gorge has often reduced this peak.
However, 20 percent of the time the flows contributed by the Yampa River alone provide
the 18,000 cfs needed. Therefore, only in years that the Yampa cannot meet the flows,
will augmented flows be needed from Flaming Gorge.
Mr. Vidmar pointed out that meeting such flow needs is not out of the range of historical
operational characteristics of Flaming Gorge. It is more a matter of the timing and
duration of releases than of increasing releases to a point that water levels in the reservoir
would be affected. Mr. Vidmar also noted that augmented releases would be dictated by
the hydrology of the river in any particular year. In other words, if the water is not there
naturally, the reservoir will not be drawn down to create artificially high flows.
Questions were asked about what the operation might do to water levels in Flaming
Gorge Reservoir. Mr. Vidmar indicated that the Wyoming Game and Fish prefer level
fluctuations less than 8 feet to assure Kokanee Salmon spawning success. Again, the
release changes are in timing only, not in the overall amount of released water. Another
questioner asked about the cost/benefit of saving these fish, and whether this was all
worth it. Mr. Vidmar said the fish are used as an indicator of the overall health of the
river system, and as such there is sentiment to save them even at high cost. Mr. John
Shields also noted that efforts to protect these species are important in maintaining
relationships throughout the Colorado River Basin States and to allow Wyoming, and
other states, to be "players" in the basin so they can develop future water allocations as
easily as possible.
Some discussion was held on problems seen with the Flaming Gorge spillway tubes,
which were damaged by cavitation in releases some years ago. The cavitation evidence
now replaces earlier thoughts that corrosion may have caused the damage.
Mr. Vidmar then presented slides showing historical flows in the Green with and without
The meeting was adjourned at 8:25 p.m.