Order of the State Engineer - Laramie County Control Area
Responding to mounting concerns over increasing development and use of groundwater resources in the Laramie County Control Area (LCCA), State Engineer Pat Tyrrell issued an order on April 1, 2015 that will limit groundwater use for the next five years in the LCCA.
The Order replaces the State Engineer’s April 11, 2012 Temporary Order which established well spacing restrictions (horizontally and vertically) as well as use limitations for most new groundwater applications within the LCCA. The Temporary Order was initially scheduled to remain in effect until October 1, 2013, but was extended through March 31, 2014, June 30, 2014, and April 1, 2015.
Following issuance of the Temporary Order, the State Engineer's Office (SEO) embarked on a hydrogeologic study, the results of which were intended to, among other things, inform future groundwater management decisions whether through controls adopted by the State Engineer or by voluntary agreement as allowed by statute. The study (the AMEC Report) was completed and made available to the public on March 27, 2014.
On April 10, 2014, a public hearing was held before the Wyoming State Engineer and the Laramie County Control Area Advisory Board pursuant to Wyoming Statute § 41-3-915. On April 24, 2014, the Laramie County Control Area Advisory Board advised the State Engineer that the underground water in the Control Area is not adequate for the needs of all appropriators.
The LCCA encompasses approximately the eastern two-thirds of Laramie County Wyoming. Since the creation of the LCCA on September 2, 1981, groundwater levels have continued to decline as measured by the SEO’s groundwater monitoring network. Almost all groundwater production within the LCCA is from the High Plains Aquifer. The presence of these formations is not uniform throughout the LCCA. Water demand for irrigation dominates all other withdrawals in the LCCA, averaging 92 percent of total groundwater withdrawals during irrigation season. Three distinct areas of significant groundwater level declines occur in the Pine Bluffs, Carpenter, and Albin areas.
The AMEC Report provides one baseline scenario and four management scenarios modeling groundwater levels over the next fifty years (2010-2060) in the LCCA. Each management scenario modeled different permitting or groundwater production assumptions and estimates different groundwater levels as compared to pre-development conditions within the model area.
Based on the AMEC Report, four distinct areas, characterized by varying hydrogeologic conditions, were identified in the LCCA. In those areas, Tyrrell calls for well spacing requirements for all new wells which includes closing areas to further permitting of large capacity wells in the High Plains Aquifer, measuring and reporting water levels, limiting drawdowns to 20 percent of available water in wells, and requiring the installation of monitoring wells. In the order, Tyrrell also orders adjudication of all unadjudicated, non time-limited, non domestic and stock wells; and metering and reporting of total groundwater production from all non domestic and stock wells completed in the High Plains Aquifer.
The Order is in effect for a period of five years. Beginning November 16, 2019, the State Engineer will review the effects of the first three years of operation of the Order - therefore, the Order focuses largely on water use data acquisition through metering and reporting. At that time, the current Order will either remain in effect or be terminated, or a new Order will be issued. At any time, the Order may also be replaced by a voluntary agreement developed by groundwater appropriators in the LCCA.
Order of the State Engineer - Horse Creek Basin
Responding to concerns over increasing conflicts between surface water and groundwater resources in southeast Wyoming, State Engineer Patrick T. Tyrrell issued an order that will limit groundwater use for the next three years in the LaGrange area while the area’s groundwater and surface water uses are re-appraised.
More specifically, the order was issued for the LaGrange Aquifer and surface water diversions from Horse Creek at and below the Brown and LaGrange diversion in southern Goshen County, Wyoming. In crafting the order, Tyrrell took into account concerns voiced by area water users, as expressed at a public hearing in LaGrange on April 12, 2013.
In the order, Tyrrell calls for closing of the area to further permitting of large capacity wells, and for the adjudication of currently unadjudicated groundwater permits. Also, groundwater used for irrigation from the LaGrange Aquifer will be limited to 12 inches per year for the next three years (starting in 2014), and a total of 36 inches over that period. Some flexibility within the 3-year period is allowed. All groundwater wells permitted for over 25 gallons per minute will also be required to have flow meters installed, and to report their use annually. While so limited, groundwater use will not be vulnerable to calls for regulation from surface water rights.
Surface water diversions, and reservoirs, will also be required to have acceptable control and measurement capabilities. Those diversions seeking to divert water during the winter will be required to have acceptable control and measurement capabilities prior to diverting in the winter of 2013-2014, and any such diversions will be required to be spread across the appropriate permitted (or adjudicated) acres up to the soil holding capacity only.
The Order is in effect for a period of three years, after which these conjunctive management measures will be reassessed. Therefore, the current order focuses largely on water use data acquisition. At that time, the current Order will either remain in effect or terminated, a new Order will be issued, or the Order will be replaced by an agreement among the affected appropriators.
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