Thursday, February 07, 2008

Snowpack up, but water fights continue

A quick look at this morning's paper reveals that water (surprise!) remains the number one issue in the Rocky Mountain West.

The Cheyenne-Laramie County Regional Planning Commission yesterday voted down a subdivision of 146 ranchettes west of town due to lack of water. That's a surprise, since concerns about water availability hasn't seemed to slow the steady march of ranchettes across the county. Perhaps this signals a change in attitude, although we can be sure that Wild West Development Corp. of Scottsdale, Ariz., will not go away without a fight.

The state's snowpack is up. It's about 95 percent of average statewide compared to 75 percent of historical average this time last year. Good news for summer water supplies. Some places have more snow than others. There's 380 inches of snow at the top of Jackson Hole Ski Resort. Lots of snow all over the western part of the state. The North Platte drainage in the middle of the state is not as healthy, with snowpack about 90 percent of average.

Meanwhile, Montana and Wyoming continue their wrangling over the drought, mainly water supplies flowing from the Bighorn River. Montana is also concerned about coal-bed methane drilling along the border. Lots of water is pumped out of the ground in the drilling process.

A new report from the Wyoming State Geological Survey might alleviate some of Montana's water concerns. The report said that more than 130 billion gallons of water could be saved through an energy moratarium in two drainages: Clear Creek and Crazy Woman Creek. Water flows out of the Bighorn Mountains through those creeks into the Powder River Basin. The moratorium wouldn't have much of an affect on energy supplies but would have a big impact on water availability. The Powder River Basin Resource Council has been pushing for this. We'll see what happens.

Meanwhile, we can all hope that Wyoming and Montana can kiss and make up.

No comments: