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WWRC 97-05p
Nonpoint Source Water Pollution Control: The Role of Conservation Districts


The 34 conservation districts in Wyoming (Figure 1) have a large degree of authority and responsibility for managing nonpoint source water pollution. State statutes (W.S. 11-16-101 et. al.) give conservation districts authority to levy taxes and 21 districts have chosen to do so.

In recent years, conservation districts have intensified their water management activities. At the 1995 annual convention, district representatives overwhelmingly passed a resolution to take a leadership role in coordinating watershed management efforts at the local level. Since then, a strategic plan has been developed that will help the districts build leadership capacity.

Conservation districts are currently involved with, or have recently completed, numerous watershed implementation projects. These include the Ocean Lake project in the Lower Wind River Conservation District, the Squaw Creek-Baldwin Creek project in the Popo Agie Conservation District, the Muddy Creek project in the Little Snake River Conservation District, the Reardon Draw project in the Sublette Conservation District, and the Crazy Women project in the Lake DeSmet Conservation District, the Willow Creek project in the Uinta County Conservation District and the Sage Creek project in the Saratoga-Encampment-Rawlins Conservation District.

In addition to implementation projects, numerous assessment projects are taking place. Assessment projects, which are an important precursor to implementation projects, are underway on the Bighorn River in the Washakie County Conservation District, the North Platte River in the Converse County Conservation District, the lower Wind River in the Lower Wind River Conservation District, Flat Creek in the Teton County Natural Resource District, the Laramie River in the Laramie Rivers Conservation District and the Tongue River in the Sheridan Conservation District. In addition, several conservation districts have initiated an assessment and planning project in the Belle Fourche Watershed. Also as a joint effort, three Goshen County districts have united to participate in a ground water assessment project.

Recently, the Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts (WACD) received a grant from the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). This 319 Program grant, provides funds for several important initiatives. First, statewide water quality planning assistance, which has been provided for the past three years, will continue. Second, a group of conservation districts will be provided financial assistance for two years to hire a water resource planner. Third, a geographical information system (GIS) demonstration project will be developed. A GIS focus area will be selected and project managers will work closely with the Wyoming Water Resources Center to assemble various map layers. After the layers have been developed, the information will be loaded into a district computer and used to make planning and management decisions at the local level.

In addition to these exciting initiatives, WACD has recently signed a contract with DEQ to provide financial and technical assistance to operators of small confined feeding operations. Currently, operations with less than 1000 animals units are not required to have a permit. Depending on their location, these small operations have the potential to impact water quality. The DEQ contract provides cost-share funds to establish five demonstration sites in the state. Best management practices will be applied and then tours will be conducted to demonstrate their effectiveness. In addition, the contract provides for numerous educational activities such as brochures, public service announcements and workshops.

Finally, WACD and the 34 conservation districts in the state would like to encourage everyone to participate in watershed planning and watershed management. Open lines of communication are important to achieving natural resources goals while preserving personal freedoms.

For more information about WACD's water resource activities contact:

Bobbie Frank, Executive Director
Wyoming Assoc. of Cons. Districts
2505 E. Fox Farm Road
Cheyenne, WY 82007
(307) 632-5716

Earl DeGroot, Water Qual. Consultant
Western Management Services
P.O. Box 1415
Cheyenne, WY 82003
(307) 634-0286

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