Wyoming State Water Plan, Wyoming Water Development Office
Rafting on Snake River Lake Marie, Snowy Mountains Wyoming Wind River Range picture

Snake/Salt River Basin Advisory Group
Meeting Record
Alpine, WY
March 24, 2004

Facilitator Sherri Gregory welcomed the group and the meeting was called to order at 6:01 p.m. All attendees introduced themselves, followed by a review of the overall meeting agenda. A sign-in sheet was passed around to record attendance. The next meeting is scheduled for July 21 in Jackson.

Water Development Commission Report
Barry Lawrence updated the BAG on the status of the plans for the other basins. The BAGs for the Wind/Bighorn, Powder/Tongue and Northeast Wyoming Basins will be meeting April 6 in Lander, April 7 in Buffalo, and April 8 in Beulah. Barry discussed the status of all basin studies, and agendas for future meetings. Handouts from the prior meeting were distributed.

John Jackson indicated that 33 new projects were authorized in the Omnibus Water Bill – Planning. The Statewide Water Research program was appropriated an additional budget of $200,000. The Small Water Project Program was amended to include irrigation as a purpose and to increase the monetary size of the project from $50,000 to $200,000. However, WWDC participation is still limited to a maximum of $25,000. Funding for the program was increased by $1,500,000, which is split equally between the Rehabilitation and New Development accounts. In the Snake/Salt Rivers basin, the following projects were approved:
Alta Test Well $ 65,000
Kennington Springs $100,000
Bedford Water Tank, 50% grant $500,000
Turnerville Water Supply, 50% grant $587,750

More information can be found at: http://wwdc.state.wy.us/legreport/2004/approvals.html

Water Planning Website Update
Debra Cook, WRDS, indicated that the 2003 Snake/Salt Water Plan website is complete and she gave an overview of its new features. The Water Plan consists of an Executive Summary, Final Report, GIS products, hydrologic models, and 26 Technical Memoranda. All items are online and can be viewed at: http://waterplan.state.wy.us/plan/snake/snake-plan.html . Of particular note is the Future Water Use Opportunities Technical Memorandum ( http://waterplan.state.wy.us/plan/snake/techmemos/futwater.html ), which includes the long and short list of opportunities, as well as a map with locations of these opportunities.

Snow Telemetry & Current Conditions (1157kb PDF)
Dave Taylor indicated that the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) installs, operates, and maintains an extensive system to collect snowpack and related climatic data in the western United States called SNOTEL. Locally, the cooperative snow survey program monitors sites in Wyoming and the western half of South Dakota. Cooperators include various municipalities, the State Engineer’s Office and the US Bureau of Reclamation. The first snow survey was conducted in 1906 by Dr. Church in the Lake Tahoe area. The program is in the 10 western states and Alaska, with Wyoming having 83 SNOTEL sites with automated equipment and 65 manually read sites. South Dakota has 2 sites each of the automated and manually read courses.

SNOTEL sites are designed to operate unattended and without maintenance for a year. Manually read courses are measured with a snow sampler, which takes a core and is weighed to determine the snow water equivalent. The standard SNOTEL site has a shelter for electronic equipment, a snow pillow, a storage precipitation gauge, a snow depth sensor, a temperature sensor, plus other sensors, including humidity, wind speed and direction, soil moisture, and solar radiation. The data is transmitted to two base stations in Boise, ID and Ogden, UT via meteor burst technology, and is then transmitted via telephone to Portland, OR. Most Wyoming sites report every three hours. Discussion followed.

The snow survey data is available through the Water Resources Data System at http://www.wrds.uwyo.edu/wrds/nrcs/nrcs.html. Another site with snowpack information is the National Water and Climate Center at http://www.wcc.nrcs.usda.gov/, with specific Wyoming SNOTEL sites at http://www.wcc.nrcs.usda.gov/snotel/Wyoming/wyoming.html.

Wyoming’s Drought Status
Jan Curtis, State Climatologist, presented an overview of the revised Climate Atlas, which is available at: http://www.wrds.uwyo.edu/wrds/wsc/climateatlas/title_page.html, particularly referencing the Drought chapter ( http://www.wrds.uwyo.edu/wrds/wsc/climateatlas/drought.html). The current drought started in 1999, with 2000 and 2001 being the driest back-to-back years since 1895.

The greatest months for precipitation are May and June. The effectiveness of the moisture falling during this time is critical to emerging plants. Jan went on to say that precipitation in this state is a function of elevation; the lower elevations experience four times more evaporation than precipitation. Without the mountains to capture the moisture in the form of snow, Wyoming would be a virtual desert. Until March 1, this year looked favorable for improving water supplies. However, higher than usual temperatures coupled with below normal precipitation have eliminated any gain and this year’s drought is expected to be extreme to exceptional across much of the state. The current forecast products are available at http://www.wrds.uwyo.edu/wrds/wsc/dtf/drought.html .

Jan distributed flyers on the Community Collaborative Rain and Hail Study (CoCoRaHS) and discussed the importance of the data and how it would be used in Wyoming. Funding for this program comes from the Colorado State Climate Office. Further information on this program can be found at http://www.cocorahs.com/ .

Water Supply Forecast & Reservoir Operations
Mike Beus, Bureau of Reclamation (USBR), summarized the current conditions in the basin. He detailed current snow telemetry, reservoir storage amounts, and flow projections by the USBR and other agencies. Mike indicated that the April-July runoff forecast, as updated in March, is 73% of normal. With regard to the 2004 refill, Mike summarized the anticipated filling of the American Falls, Palisades and Jackson Lake Reservoirs. The current forecast is that Palisades Reservoir may fill 50%.

”How Jackson Lake Dam Operations Affects the Snake River”
Sue O’Ney, National Park Service (NPS), indicated that a log crib dam was built at the outlet of the natural Jackson Lake in 1906, which subsequently failed in 1910. A larger structure was completed in 1917, which raised the natural lake level, by 39 feet. Sue summarized the operations of the dam during spring runoff and during the fall and winter. Typically, Jackson Lake is maintained near its full capacity as along as possible for the boating season, and as natural runoff subsides, dam releases are increased for recreation downstream and to move water into Palisades Reservoir. Also, 200,000 acre-feet must be moved downstream to Palisades Reservoir so the Bureau of Reclamation can establish a sustainable flow through September 30.

In 2003, Grand Teton National Park obtained funding for a 2-year study of Snake River hydrology and geomorphology and related Jackson Lake Dam operations. Components of the study will include 1) an analysis of stream flow changes, 2) aerial photography analysis of channel changes since 1989, 3) surveying, mapping, excavation and analysis of identified areas of channel narrowing, and 4) the development of an integrated plan for flow regimes and surface manipulation. To date, daily flow and annual peak discharge data has been divided into three periods for analysis:

The study will be ongoing and will help develop a set of river management objectives that will guide the NPS in future negotiations with the USBR.

The meeting was adjourned.