SWEETWATER COUNTY — The Sweetwater County Commission unanimously approved the formation and cooperative agreement of the Sweetwater County Water Users Coalition Committee during its meeting last Tuesday, which is replacing the Communities Protecting the Green committee.
For years, Communities Protecting the Green has been keeping a watchful eye on the Green River, ensuring no water is diverted to any other states. According to Sweetwater County Commission Chairman Randy Wendling, the primary reason for the creation of the committee was to take legal action if water ever was to be diverted from the Green River.
“It was basically a committee that was stood up to prepare to be a litigation committee, to not hesitate if there was any diversion of water from the Green to out of state,” he said. “We had the power to file an injunction without any approval, basically, from the two cities and the county, and that’s a lot of money.”
Within the last couple years, the Sweetwater County Joint Powers Water Board hired a consultant, Pat Tyrell, who is a former state engineer. According to Wendling, Tyrell advised the board that it is “foolish” to put money into a committee for injunction purposes.
“They came up with recommendations that it is foolish to throw money down a rat hole for an injunction, because there will be enough private conservation groups that the minute a permit is granted to divert water out of the Green, whether it’s in Wyoming or in Utah, there will be private conservation groups ready to file an injunction to stop that,” Wendling said.
Therefore, the purpose of the committee has changed, according to Wendling. The Sweetwater County Water Users Coalition Committee will not have a focus on filing injunctions, but will instead will focus on the following purposes:
- Advise and consult with the parties hereto concerning water matters.
- Represent the interests of all Sweetwater County water users and all uses of surface waters of the Green River Basin within the geographic boundaries of Sweetwater County.
- Encourage the optimal utilization of water resources to promote responsible community and economic development that is in balance with the environment.
- Act as “Sponsor” for State and/or Federal Programs to obtain funding for studies, programs and/or projects.
- Promote the use of water in an economical and environmentally responsible manner for industrial, mineral, agricultural, and recreational purposes.
- Help ensure that water resources are managed, developed, and maintained for the enjoyment and beneficial use of current and future generations of Sweetwater County and its communities.
- Work with the State of Wyoming to protect its Colorado River water rights for the benefit of Sweetwater County and the rest of Wyoming within the requirements of the Colorado Basin Compact and the Upper Basin Compact.
- Educate the residents of Sweetwater County on issues related to the Green River and Colorado River Basins.
The coalition will be comprised of five individuals including one by the governing body of Rock Springs, one by the governing body of Green River, one by the governing body of Sweetwater County, and two at large representatives. Brian Seppie and Richard Mathey will be the two at large members, while Eddie Baker will represent Rock Springs, Jason Palmer will represent Green River, and Wendling will represent Sweetwater County.