TU opposes bill allowing deadly sediment flows like one on the Shoshone River in 2016


Tom Reed, President East Yellowstone Chapter of Trout Unlimited, 717-215-0241, TomReed1458@gmail.com

Brett Prettyman, Intermountain Communications Director, Trout Unlimited, 801-209-5320, bprettyman@tu.org

For Immediate Release Jan. 31, 2017

CHEYENNE, Wyo. Instead of working to prevent another massive 20-mile fish kill like one last fall on the Shoshone River, a Wyoming legislator has proposed a law requiring the Department of Environmental Quality to write new regulations allowing irrigation operators to do the same thing legally once a year on every dam in Wyoming.

Representative David Northrup, R-Powell, introduced HB261 to the Agriculture Committee at the Wyoming Legislature Monday, Jan. 30. The bill will be reviewed again at the Agriculture Committee Thursday.

An irrigation district should not be allowed to impact other rightful users of a water system by degrading fisheries or other natural resources or impacting downstream landowners and water users, said Dave Sweet, a member of the East Yellowstone Chapter of Trout Unlimited out of Cody, Wyoming, and representative on the Wyoming Council of Trout Unlimited. The bill, as written, allows reparable harm to these users. This is an undefined term and opens the door for harm without specifying who is responsible for repairing the harm.

Trout Unlimited called on the irrigation district, state and other parties to work on identifying a permanent solution after Willwood Irrigation District illegally dumped a load of silt down the Shoshone River last fall. We are disappointed to see this proposed bill instead.

Lets work on improving management with a collaborative pragmatic approach, Sweet said. Not more unnecessary regulations and procedures when a standard already exists.

Other points Trout Unlimited wants to share with the Wyoming Legislature and concerned citizens include:

  • There is no need for the bill. The current Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality law allows irrigation districts to release water from the dam with turbidity that is above what is flowing into the reservoir above the dam. This does not allow the district to store up sediment and dump it all at once as happened at Willwood last fall.
  • Any irrigation district can apply for a waiver with justification and handle sediment load properly to avoid a resulting death flow like happened in the fall of 2016.
  • The bill is an attempt to apply a statewide blanket to the issue instead of a case-by-case review at the local watershed level. The current law allows the Department of Environmental Quality to set local standards based on the variables, inputs and outputs of the specific watershed.

NOTE: Pictures of the spill on the Shoshone River available. Send an email to BPrettyman@TU.org with a request.

About Trout Unlimited

Today, Trout Unlimited is a national organization with more than 155,000 volunteers organized into about 400 chapters nationwide. These dedicated volunteers are paired with a respected staff of organizers, lawyers, policy experts and scientists, who work out of more than 30 offices. Our mission is to conserve, protect and restore North America’s cold-water fisheries and their watersheds.