Drought conditions are becoming more common across the West, and Wyoming lawmakers are looking at some ideas for how to conserve and replenish water resources. Last year, lawmakers failed to fully fund an $80 million dam project on the Wyoming-Colorado border, instead, giving about $5 million to try to persuade Colorado to join forces since ranchers there could benefit, too.
The Wyoming Water Development Office recently made a presentation and gave tours of possible dam sites to a Colorado water conservation board. Director Harry LaBonde said afterward, Colorado officials signed a letter in support of the West Fork dam idea but didn't make any funding commitments. He said there's another factor impeding the dam's progress.
"Colorado has a new governor coming on board, as does Wyoming," he said. "And so I think it's a resetting of the clock in regards to those ultimate decision makers."
LaBonde said he has more hope for a bill to pay for expansion costs on the Big Sandy Reservoir in western Wyoming.
Like the West Fork dam project, the Big Sandy expansion would capture more of Wyoming's share of water flowing into the Colorado River system. That's in hopes of stockpiling water as droughts caused by climate change continue to hurt Wyoming ranchers.