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Powder/Tongue River Basin Advisory Group
Sheridan College, Sheridan, WY
December 12, 2001
The facilitators opened the meeting at approximately 6:00 pm and reviewed the agenda to set the
expectations for the meeting. Participants introduced themselves by stating their name,
affiliation, and place of residence. The facilitators then sent a sign-in sheet around the room.
The facilitators stated that the next BAG meeting, as selected by the BAG members, would be
held January 16th in Sheridan. The facilitators explained that following the January BAG
meeting, interim BAG meetings would be held every four months. The first such meeting was
scheduled for March 20th in Buffalo. The BAG members then selected July 17th in Dayton as the
date and location for the next subsequent meeting.
Planning Team Issues
Barry Lawrence spoke to the group on the role of the BAG following plan completion. He
indicated that it was critical that the group continue to meet, albeit not as frequent, to continue to
discuss the current issues affecting the basin and to provide a two-way street of communication
between the residents of the basin and the resource management agencies. Barry then updated
the BAG on the status of the plans for the Snake/Salt, Wind/Bighorn, Northeast, Bear, and Green
River Basins. He detailed the current activities in each, as well as the invited BAG speakers, and
consultant work in progress (if applicable). He then invited interested individuals to attend any
or all of the BAG meetings in the other basins.
Status of the Current Drought and Related Issues, Jan Curtis - State Climatologist
Jan explained that the drought that began in Wyoming in the Spring of 2000 has affected the
Powder-Tongue, Belle Fourche, and Cheyenne-Niobrara basins to differing degrees. The
forecast through the end of May 2002 indicates: 1) a greater than 22 percent chance for above
normal precipitation, thus ending the drought for the Powder-Tongue basins; 2) no chance for the
drought to end for the Belle Fourche basin; and, 3) a 74 percent chance for no drought conditions
to exist for Cheyenne-Niobrara basins. It was noted that the regional forecast is for winter to
have a 50-50 percent chance for above-below normal precipitation and temperatures.
In an attempt to quantify drought, Jan indicated that he was developing a drought trigger
mechanism that will provide ample lead-time to prepare for drought (i.e., declare emergency,
implement water priority access, etc.). The triggers are based on 1 Oct historical reservoir level
departures, actual winter snowpack by 1 April, and soil moisture. Using winter and summer
precipitation forecasts (6 months in advance) and April's forecast (one month in advance) for
prairie grassland growth potential, a template is expected to assist State of Wyoming departments
on being more proactive in reacting to a developing drought. If the drought is more than one
year long, additional factors are added in order to determine just what amount of precipitation is
required to end the drought.
Jan indicated that the Water Resources Data System (WRDS) website at:
http://www.wrds.uwyo.edu has important real-time and forecast links pertaining to water/snow,
soil moisture, reservoir levels, fire potential, and precipitation. The one-stop shopping link is:
Coalbed Methane Activities Update - Mickey Steward, CBMCC
Mickey reported that the Coalbed Methane Coordination Coalition has been in existence for
twelve months and she was in the process of preparing a summary report of their activities. The
CBMCC will be narrowing their focus in the future. Mickey further indicated that surface
discharges are still a major concern, and this issue will be intensified by the drought. It was
noted that dust abatement on county roads was also a significant issue, particularly in the eastern
portion of the Powder River Basin.
Consultant Update - Wade Irion, HKM Engineering, Inc.
Wade reported that the consulting team was finalizing technical memoranda and would be
making a summary presentation of the final results to the BAG in January. Following that
presentation, the final report will be submitted to the WWDC.
Water Quality Issues - Chris Ewers, HKM Engineering, Inc.
Chris presented a summary of the contents of the Water Quality memorandum from Task 5. He
noted that the memorandum provides information on ongoing water quality projects, indicates
any cooperation or collaboration that might be possible between groups interested in water
quality, and points out the locations of water quality work in the basin. Chris highlighted the
efforts of the Department of Environmental Quality's Water Quality Division, the Wyoming
Association of Conservation Districts, and the U.S. Geological Survey as ongoing water-quality
programs. He noted that much more data would soon be available from a number of groups
interested in coalbed methane produced water.
Legal and Institutional Constraints - Joe Lord, Lord Consulting, LLC
Joe explained that the purpose of the legal and institutional constraints memorandum was to
identify and discuss federal and state laws, rules, regulations, and policies that affect water
development and management. The presentation addressed the following topics:
- Federal environmental laws including the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the National
Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and the Clean Water Act (CWA);
- Federal lands and the requirement for Special Use Permits;
- Wyoming environmental laws including Section 401 (CWA) state certification, National
Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES), non-storm water discharges, and Spill
Prevention Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) plans;
- Wyoming water law;
- Yellowstone River Basin Compact; and
- Wyoming Water Development Program.
Future Water Use Opportunities - Joe Lord, Lord Consulting, LLC
As a review for BAG members, Joe explained the purpose of Task 5 was to identify future water
use opportunities that will satisfy present and projected demands, and to rank these opportunities
according to the likelihood the project is desirable, functional, and can receive the support
required for implementation. He explained that individuals and organizations that need to
develop a water supply, would use the ranked short-list of future water use opportunities to
satisfy their specific needs. It was emphasized that the ranked short-list would not be used by the
WWDC to establish funding priorities.
Joe then explained the process followed to develop and rank the short-list of future water use
opportunities. He indicated that the long-list and short-list were distributed to BAG members
following the October BAG meeting and comments and suggestions were solicited and received.
Assigning weights to the evaluation criteria and scores to each of the projects yielded the ranked
short-list. This list was then distributed to BAG members for review. Joe again asked for
questions and comments on the ranked short-list.
Following a question and answer session, the meeting was adjourned at approximately 9:00 pm.