Wyoming State Water Plan, Wyoming Water Development Office
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Background Information Concerning the Proposed
Lyman-West Green River (Bridger Valley)
Colorado River Basin Salinity Control Project

Interest on the part of the Bridger Valley Conservation District has been expressed to the State of Wyoming and to the Wyoming Congressional Delegation on an ongoing, intermittent basis since the Big Sandy Salinity Control Project was initiated in 1988.

In May, 1990, the Bridger Valley Conservation District made application to the NRCS requesting participation in the Colorado River Basin Salinity Control Program. In September, 1991, personnel in the Wyoming State Office of the Natural Resources Conservation Service completed a preliminary assessment report , which based its projections and estimates largely on the Big Sandy Project. Some of the key data presented in the report were the following:

Estimated Salt Loading and Watershed Acreage

Watershed Water Quality
Daily Salt Load
Annual Salt Load
Total Watershed & Irrig. Acreage
Blacks Fork 277-3,710 1,204 439,479 1,837,870
Irrig. = 65,700
Hams Fork 221-632 241 87,242 495,070
Irrig. = 11,200
Henrys Fork 247-1,940 359 131,035 348,940
Irrig. = 19,600
Totals: - 1,804 657,756 2,681,880
Irrig. = 96,500

The Big Sandy River Unit had pre-project total dissolved solids estimated quantities of 388 to 4,240 mg/l and 510 tons of salt per day discharge, with an average annual salt loading discharge rate estimated at 149,180 tons.

The report estimated that of the 657,800 tons of annual salt loading that some 75 to 85 percent or about 526,200 tons are from irrigated land. Using figures from the previously completed studies for the Big Sandy, NRCS estimated that about 195,000 tons of salt loading reduction could be accomplished at an approximate Federal cost of $40.00 per ton (amortized over 25 years at 8 7/8 percent interest).

A letter transmitting this assessment report was sent in October 1991 to the Colorado River Basin Salinity Control Forum by the USDA's National Salinity Control Coordinating Committee. The letter stated:

"The data presented in this report suggest that the Black's Fork/Henry's Fork/Ham's Fork areas all have potential to reduce salt loading through on-farm irrigation improvements. It also suggests that the federal costs associated with these improvements are within the expected range of other USDA projects currently being funded. Correspondence received to date further suggests that there is a high level of local support as well."

The National Salinity Control Coordinating recommended against funding of the Lyman-West Green River area based on:

The Committee did recommend, however, ". that in the event future projections made by the Bureau of Reclamation and the Forum identify the need for additional salinity reductions in the Basin, this area should be among those considered."

In 1996, USDA's CRSCP was combined with three other ongoing USDA programs into the newly created Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) by provisions in the Federal Agriculture Improvement and Reform Act. Under this new Program, a minimum of $200 million was to be expended each year, nationwide, to meet natural resource conservation needs that had been being addressed by the four now-defunct programs. This had the effect of removing from the USDA's budget a specific line-item for the Colorado River Salinity Control Program. The EQIP program is intended to be "locally-led, bottoms-up." Under the new EQIP program, funding decisions are made by the Washington office of NRCS on the basis of recommendations from the NRCS State Conservationists and the FSA State Executive Director - after consulting with the State Technical Committee. There has been strong and adequate support for continuing the Big Sandy Project of the Colorado River Salinity Control Program within the State Technical Committee.

FAIRA also amended the Colorado River Basin Salinity Control Act to provide for up-front cost sharing for salinity expenditures through the use of Upper Colorado River Basin Development Fund moneys and Lower Colorado River Basin Development Fund moneys that can be provided from the Basin Funds. Previously, the Basin Funds could only be used for repayment of expenditures already made for salinity control practices. This amendment of the law provides considerable ability to "leverage" appropriated funds with additional funding on an annual basis. This amounts to an additional $0.43 being available for each federal $1.00 appropriated for salinity control measures.

Said another way, the Colorado River Basin Salinity Control Act, as amended, authorizes Reclamation to collect and expend funds on behalf of the Colorado River Basin States to either repay or cost share salinity control measures cited in Section 202 of the Act. Section 202 includes salinity control measures implemented under EQIP. By this reference, Reclamation is authorized to expend Basin Funds on cost share salinity control measures implemented by the USDA under EQIP. The USDA has determined that it cannot accept cost sharing funds directly into its EQIP program. Accordingly, the State Engineer's Office has entered into a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and is acting as the fiscal agent for the disbursement of Basin funds for Colorado River Salinity Control within the State of Wyoming.

The seven Basin States individually and collectively acting as the Colorado River Basin Salinity Control Forum have been trying, since the creation of the EQIP to convince the USDA to designate Colorado River salinity control as a national conservation priority area (as provided for in the FAIRA and the final federal regulations for implementing the EQIP since the law was passed). The Forum's efforts included insertion of language directing USDA to designate national priority areas in the Agriculture Appropriations bill. In response to this pressure, in December, 1998 the NRCS Chief designated CRBSC as a "special interest area" and earmarked Fiscal Year 1999 EQIP funding for the salinity control program. The Wyoming State Engineer's Office views this action by the USDA as being positive in that it may present opportunities to expand the salinity control program in the States of Colorado, Utah and Wyoming beyond those areas where EQIP dollars are presently being used to obtain salt loading reductions.

In May, 1997, the Uinta County Conservation District submitted an application for designation of the Lyman-West Green River area in Wyoming as a statewide priority area for salinity control to the NRCS State Technical Committee. Designation is normally necessary for project areas to receive EQIP funding (unless funding is provided on the basis of statewide resource concerns). This proposal was ranked along with all other applications but did not receive a sufficiently high ranking to receive Fiscal Year 1998 EQIP funding.

The seven-state Colorado River Basin Salinity Control Forum, at its May, 1999, meeting, recommended to the USDA that it initiate planning for the Lyman-West Green River salinity control project at this time. This effort was initiated by a letter sent by the Wyoming State Engineer to the members of the Forum expressing the need for an additional USDA salinity control unit in view of the fact that the Big Sandy Unit will be completed within the course of several more years and that the 1999 Triennial Review report identified the need for additional salt loading reduction projects. The Forum expressed a willingness to cost-share in the preparation of the necessary planning report.

On June 15, 1999 and July 20, 1999, public meetings were held in Manila, Utah and Lyman, Wyoming, respectively, to assess public interest in initiating a salinity control project that would encompass the Blacks Fork, Henrys Fork and Hams Fork Basins in Utah and Wyoming. The project area would include parts of the areas encompassed by the Uinta, Lincoln and Daggett (Utah) Conservation Districts - including Daggett and Summit counties in Utah and parts of Lincoln, Sweetwater and Uinta counties in Wyoming. These meetings demonstrated that there is considerable local interest.

Following these public meetings, it is the assessment of the Wyoming State Engineer's Office that the "ball is in NRCS' court" to initiate a study that will lead to the preparation of a planning report and accomplish necessary National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) compliance. The purpose of the study would be to compile and analyze the necessary information (present salinity concentrations in flows in the streams, canals, wasteways and drains, characterization of present facilities including miles of canals and drains, salinity loading associated with current irrigation water application and return flow management, etc.) and develop needed planning for the proposed salinity control project area. NEPA compliance needs to be completed as well.

The ongoing preparation of a basin water plan for the Green River may provide data and information useful for completing this proposed salinity control project study.

The Report was entitled: "Colorado River Salinity Control Program for the Lyman-West Green River -- Summit County, Utah - Lincoln, Uinta and Sweetwater Counties, Wyoming" and was dated September 26, 1991.