By Liz Wood 

Benefiting landowners

Watershed Study helps create possible projects for SERCD


Joe Parsons, Supervisory Resource Specialist with the Saratoga-Encampment-Rawlins Conservation District (SERCD) in Saratoga, said two studies - the Platte River Basin Plan Study (Basin Plan) and the Upper North Platte Level I Watershed Study - are two separate studies, but are not mutually exclusive of each other.

The Basin Plan covers a larger portion of state drainages and since the water rights in the Platte Valley are allocated, the Basin Plan is used more for areas where the water rights are not fully allocated.

The Basin Plan is not necessarily detailed enough for the SERCD, but it is good information and helps the SERCD make informed decisions, Parsons said.

Last year, SERCD applied to the state legislature and received funding to do the Upper North Platte Level I Watershed Study (Watershed Study).

While the Watershed Study covers a specific area, the Basin Plan encompasses a third of the state. The Watershed Study area is from Pathfinder Dam to the Wyoming/Colorado state line covering all drainages flowing into the North Platte.

What the Watershed Study study does is help SERCD find a "cookbook of potential projects," Parsons said. Those potential projects also come with associated costs.

This allows SERCD to knowledgeably talk to landowners about water-type projects like putting stock ponds in and retrofitting head gates, Parsons said.

SERCD and Wyoming Water Development Commission has contracted Anderson Consulting through a competitive bid process to come up with what project designs would look like and what the cost would be.

Then SERCD can then go forward with getting the project implemented and off the ground, Parsons said.

While the Basin Plan is the big picture – where is the water going, who is it allocated to, the SERCD looks at a much different scale.

In September, the SERCD held a meeting which asked for input from landowners and their willingness to participate in the study.

Those included irrigation systems and infrastructure in need of replacement or rehabilitation, upland livestock/wildlife watering opportunities, water storage needs and location and stream channel conditions.

The voluntary watershed study helps identify water supply needs and helps SERCD develop a watershed management plan that identifies problem areas within the watershed. It also helps to provide practical economic solutions, Parsons said.

Conservation districts all around the state are doing this, Parsons said. The Little Snake River Conservation District did a watershed study several years ago.

"What the Level I Watershed Study does, is open up funding through small waters grants," Parsons said.

Parsons was encouraged by the Wyoming Water Commission to apply for the Watershed Study during the Basin Plan update.

This way some of the information that Anderson Consulting comes up with can be shared with the Basin Plan. It works both ways – if the Basin Plan has more detailed information for an area they can share it with Anderson Consulting.

So while the projects are not intertwined, they can be beneficial to each other.

Parsons explained the reason the two meetings were held together was to visit with landowners who had an interest in the Basin Plan but may have not attended the Watershed Study meeting in September.

Since then, two landowners have contacted SERCD and expressed interest in retrofitting head gates, going to a pivot irrigation system from an open ditch and having a stock pond installed on their land.

The benefits of all of these are improved water quality, Parsons said.

In the future, Anderson Consulting plans to have more meetings over the course of the next year that landowners can come in and visit with Anderson Consulting about what can be done on their land.

The landowners can use SERCD to get funding for their projects faster and easier, Parsons said.

Editor's note: This is the final story in a series on the Watershed Study and Basin Plan.


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