Cheyenne attorney says instream flow would disrupt highly efficient systemWritten by Christy Martinez
Casper – As a fourth-generation Wyomingite with a grandfather who homesteaded near Orin Junction in 1879, today Cheyenne agriculture attorney Harriet Hageman focuses her practice on representing ranchers, farmers and irrigation districts.
A large part of Hageman’s experience has been in trying to protect historical uses of water in Wyoming, and one threat she sees to historical use is instream flow.
“Instream flow laws were adopted in the late 1980s, and I think in every legislative session since then there has been at least one, and sometimes two, three, four or five, bills introduced to expand our instream flow laws,” said Hageman at the 10th Annual Doornbos Lecture Series at Casper College on March 1.
In addition to Wyoming water law, Hageman’s series of lectures featured private property rights, federal regulations, wolves and the U.S. Forest Service.
“I think a lot of people ask, why not have instream flows? Why do we fight it so hard? Why don’t we care about fish? Why don’t we care about protecting the environment?” said Hageman.
“Every year Trout Unlimited comes to me with a bill and asks me to support it in the state legislature, and I say I probably can’t, and here’s why: giving the North Platte River as an example, what happens between the time the water comes into our state and leaves is that we use and reuse that water seven times. If we do instream flow, we lose the ability to do that,” she explained.
“The folks at Saratoga and Encampment have very steep slopes, and they typically irrigate grass hay. It’s not a high-consumptive-use crop, and irrigation is for a limited time early in the irrigation season, and they’re typically done irrigating by mid-July. They throw lots of water on those lands, and the vast majority of that water comes back to the stream as return flow,” she further explained. “What that does is slow the water down. If it all comes through the state in spring runoff we’d fill the reservoirs very quickly, or it would be called through. The water wouldn’t be slowed down and it’d head to Nebraska much more quickly. If we slow that water down we can keep more water in our reservoirs and irrigate more lands.”
“Why don’t I care about fisheries and instream flow? It can be terribly disruptive to what has become a highly efficient system,” said Hageman. “When we use and reuse water seven times it not only benefits irrigators, but also municipalities. The city of Casper and most municipalities are later in priority because people settled ranches and farms before they settled in towns, so Casper, Douglas and others have late priority rights. If I have a farm, I can call the cities out from getting water.”
“The system works, and it’s become a very highly efficient system. When we do instream flows we bypass the system, and that water shoots straight through,” stated Hageman. “That’s why I’m always concerned about how instream flow laws work – people have to understand the consequences. It’s not as simple as saying we’re going to go out and protect fisheries – it actually affects the entire irrigation system.”
“But we do have an instream flow law, and the Wyoming Water Development Commission holds the water rights, and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department administers them,” said Hageman, adding that instream flow has not been exercised very heavily in the state of Wyoming.
“When you have a water right, if you want to do instream flow, you have to transfer that right to the Wyoming Water Development Commission,” she continued. “I was talking with a Game and Fish guy one day, and he was asking me to support more instream flow laws, and I asked him how many Game and Fish water rights have been transferred to instream flow, and he said none. I asked why, and he said they didn’t want to give up their water rights.”
Out of 90 applications for instream flow, 17 have proceeded to permit and two have been adjudicated, and Hageman said there has never been a call for regulation on an instream flow right.
“Instream flow rights have to be limited in geography,” she said of their scope. “We can’t have one over a long stretch of river because it would be so severely disruptive to the rest of the system. Instream flow rights are typically through a particular, identified, described section of the stream.”
Of other uses and demands on Wyoming’s water systems apart from instream flow, Hageman listed recreation, endangered and threatened species, municipalities and compact and decree compliance. However, she said she doesn’t consider recreation a consumptive use.
“The problem with recreation surfaces in places like the Flaming Gorge Reservoir, which is four million acre-feet and was built for the purpose of making sure Colorado and Wyoming can exercise their entitlements under the compact,” she stated. “We don’t have a lot of water demand in western Wyoming, but what I’ve found in addressing anything associated with that reservoir is a strong outcry from the recreationist community about any action affecting levels. The reservoir was built for irrigation and municipal purposes, all these reservoirs were. They’re awfully nice to have for recreation, but they were built for irrigation and flood control – that’s what built them and paid for them. Recreation is a nice byproduct, but people have to recognize the primary use.”
“As municipalities grow, we’ll have to transfer more ag uses to our municipalities. Fortunately in Wyoming our water rights run with the land,” said Hageman. “If you go to Colorado you can see what happens when you can sell that water. In Colorado you can buy water for $17,000 to $20,000 per acre-foot, while ag use out of Glendo is five dollars per acre-foot. There’s a dramatic difference in value for irrigation, municipal or industrial uses between the two states. The water market in Colorado is extreme, and we don’t have that in Wyoming, and that’s good. But at some point we’ll see something different, and this is where the value is for ag producers, and why they need to protect and use their water, because that’s the biggest value on their property.”
Hageman said endangered and threatened species are where she’s seeing the fight for control of water.
“In Nebraska we have the Program, which is a $225 million document outlining an agreement between three states – Nebraska, Colorado and Wyoming – for the protection of threatened and endangered species in central Nebraska, and Wyoming’s share is about 10 percent. It was negotiated over an eight-year period, and it describes the manner in which we’ll manage the Central Platte River for the benefit of the species,” she said.
“We’re limited in what our development can be in North Platte River system to what was existing July 1, 1997. Under the Program we donate both water and money for recovering the species, and it gives regulatory certainty for 13 years so we can protect our reservoirs, municipal and industrial demands and irrigators. In about five more years we’ll start the fight all over again, and next time they’ll want more water. This rolls from one document to the next, and people like me fight to make sure we can protect what we have,” she stated.
Hageman said she finds instream flow, consumptive use and all facets of Wyoming water law very interesting. “There’s a lot of history tied up in it,” she said.
Instream flow oppositionWritten by Heather Hamilton
Casper – “The value of your operation is directly tied to its water resources. I don’t care if you’re located in a desert, a high mountain pasture, or if you’re running center pivots; your agriculture unit is 100 percent dependant on your water resources, so we need to be extremely careful to protect those resources, and your ability to operate,” said Wyoming Stock Growers Association (WSGA) Water Committee chair Joe Glode during the committee meeting held Dec. 14 at the WSGA Winter Roundup.
“We need to be extremely careful to shine the bright light of the entire state of Wyoming when analyzing these proposed pieces of legislation and deciding whether to weigh in for or against them,” added Glode.
Among the legislation brought to the committee was a piece on temporary instream flow. WSGA previously held an “opposed” view on the proposed bill, and Scott Yates of Trout Unlimited provided an update on the bill and asked members to reconsider their opposition.
“We’ve worked the past four-plus years with Representative Rosie Berger to design what I would not call instream flow, but private land stream flow restoration,” explained Yates.
“This bill is functionally different than the 1986 instream flow statute we have on the books in Wyoming, where the state works with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, Wyoming Water Development Commission and the State Engineers Offices in filing new water rights, justifying those water rights in the context of the statute and then basically creating a water right held by the state for instream flow purposes. Those are all post-1986 priority dates, and about 100 of those have been filed.
“What that statute doesn’t really provide is the ability for the private landowner to use their water right temporarily for stream flow purposes. It does a have a provision where the private landowner can permanently dedicate their water right to the state, but, as everybody knows, that’s not really a viable option for anybody, including trout fishers, in most cases, ” explained Yates.
“This bill tries to work with fisheries and provide long-term operational benefits for landowners with temporary instream flow. The bill is a lot like it was in 2009, and sets up a 10-year pilot project where we can do some of these temporary transactions. We will look at them, study them, and see how it works. The main difference between now and 2009 is this time we would only allow the temporary change between July 1 and Nov. 30.
“We made this change for a number of reasons. We got responses from many producers in the state saying they could still keep land in production and get the benefits of return flows from that water use, but later in the year when the water is lower and their operational flexibility perhaps increases, they might work on a transaction with a group like Trout Unlimited. We would actually pay them to not use their water for a certain time period after July 1, where we’ve analyzed that the fishery needs it and we’ve developed a market-based, financial transaction where they could then use that money instead of the water for that short time period every year for one, two or five years within that first 10-year pilot period,” explained Yates.
He added there would be injury analysis and a project wouldn’t be implemented if it injured another irrigator. Yates also noted the language is very similar to that involved in any other temporary use agreement.
“I feel that prior appropriations work quite well in Wyoming, and I don’t see where this will benefit agriculture at all. Once you let it go, prior appropriations can use it, and that’s the way it should be,” commented Wheatland area farmer and rancher Juan Reyes.
“He’s asking that protection of fisheries be added to the list of beneficiaries for temporary uses under state statute, and that’s something that doesn’t exist today. Yes, you can close your head gate, and he can come and give you money, and you can let your water run on down the stream. But, what he’s also asking for is to keep the water in the stream and call it through the reach of the channel, and take it down to the point of senior diversion, and at that point leave it and run it on down, thus calling out junior appropriators from above or below, depending on the reach you’re talking about,” explained Glode.
“My problem is that you are calling into question what I would call marginal lands. Those lands that have 1909 or 1910 water rights on them, and those lands are often the determining factor on whether or not you stay in business on a lot of places. If we’re going to fallow those lands, then I think we need to know what we’re doing. It is an extension of beneficial use, and another tool in the box of keeping water in the stream on the doctrine of prior appropriations,” added Glode.
“I would be opposed to this,” commented producer Rodger Schroeder of Chugwater. “We’ve got water rights on a small stream, and our earliest one is 1880. There’s one more two months ahead of us on appropriation, and that’s where they draw the line a lot of times. If he calls for that water, then lets it go instead of me, or someone above me, using it, you’re not refilling that ground aquifer that keeps that creek running. That water would already be gone, and when those higher meadows haven’t had water, your creeks are drier in the winter and you haven’t gained a thing.”
Producers also commented that out-of-state people come in and purchase large tracts of land, and they don’t have the same view of productive agricultural lands.
“They have a whole different view of how this world works, and armed with this type of information, they would wreak havoc on a number of operations,” noted Glode.
After an extensive comment and discussion period, attendees opted to maintain their position of “strongly opposed” to the proposed bill.
Pathfinder Modification accepts construction bidsWritten by Christy Hemken
Casper – Upon the completion of the Pathfinder Modification project, which will raise the spillway 2.4 feet, Pathfinder Reservoir will be returned from its current 1.16 million acre-feet capacity back to its original 1.7 million acre-feet appropriation.
“The history of this project has been amazing,” says Wyoming Water Development Commission Director Mike Purcell of the modification project. “In the 1980s the State of Wyoming wanted to construct Deer Creek Dam for supplemental supplies for North Platte municipalities and in ’86 Nebraska sued Wyoming, as they thought the construction of Deer Creek Dam was a violation of the Decree.”
Purcell says there were simultaneous negotiations for an endangered species program. “That came to a head in the mid-’90s. We always knew the Endangered Species Act would come front and center on anything new, but in the mid-’90s it became apparent that we needed to address the endangered species issues even if we wanted to improve existing facilities.”
“Ultimately we solved the lawsuit and the endangered species were handled through the Platte River Recovery Implementation Plan, and all parties agreed we’d substitute the Pathfinder Modification project for Deer Creek Dam, and that’s how Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming and the Department of the Interior came to embrace the modification project,” says Purcell.
Under the endangered species plan, water captured in Pathfinder will move down to Lake McConaughy in central Nebraska, where the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will release water as needed for the species.
“We’re up here modifying a reservoir to get water for endangered species some 500 miles downstream,” says Bureau of Reclamation Wyoming Area Manager John Lawson. “The whole goal of the program is to provide 130,000 to 150,000 acre-feet of flow to improve the target species in the Central Platte.”
Only in its first 13-year increment, the project’s ultimate goal is 417,000 acre-feet of water. Lawson says some will come from the Pathfinder Modification as Wyoming’s contribution, some will come from Lake McConaughy and some will come from the Tamarack Project, an underground reservoir, in eastern Colorado.
“We split the 54,000 acre-feet, and 30,000 of it became the environmental account – Wyoming’s contribution to the Platte River Recovery on behalf of our water users, who are all users faced with endangered species consultations, including the Bureau of Reclamation, municipalities and irrigation districts,” says Purcell.
After that was settled, the modification had to go before Congress to get the federal authorization changed for the water use, it had to go through the Wyoming Legislature for an $8.5 million appropriation and back again for perimission to export water to Nebraska. A mitigation plan for fisheries was put in place with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and the Bureau of Reclamation had to go before the Board of Control for a water right amendment expended to municipal and environmental uses.
The modification project also had to go through negotiations with upstream water users in Carbon County. “In essence, the 54,000 acre-feet of water rights say we get to store water under that priority, but it can’t make calls,” says Purcell. “it cannot call out the upper basin, where those users were concerned about potential additional water rights administration upstream.”
“The culmination of all this is that we’re accepting construction bids,” says Purcell, noting that the spillway has been “high and dry” for 26 years, and now that contractors will be on the spillway, “Mother Nature has decided to give us some grief.”
Running over Pathfinder’s existing spillway is a walkway, and under that is the existing low dam, or weir, used to raise the level of water upstream and regulate its flow.
“The weir is what we use to judge how much water is being passed downstream,” says Lawson. “We know by every tenth of a foot how much water is being passed downstream, and it worked rather well.”
“What the modification amounts to is building a new weir 2.4 feet higher than the existing,” says Lawson. “The amazing thing is that 2.4 feet will store 54,000 acre-feet of water.”
He puts that into perspective by noting that Guernsey Dam, further down the system, only holds 45,000 acre-feet of water maximum.
The new weir will be extended somewhat, allowing for a longer weir area that will allow the spillway to meet its requirements of what it needs to pass in a probable maximum flood. “By having a longer weir we have more surface area to pass water over, and in addition to that we’ll have a considerable amount of work with regard to rock removal and getting the spillway area cleared out for friction,” says Lawson.
Instead of a rough concrete block, the new weir will also be shaped with the dynamics of an airplane wing so more water can be passed over with less pressure.
“We told the contractors in the bid package that this spillway has to be operational again by April 1, 2011, because we don’t know what the future brings for next year,” says Purcell. “You’d have to suggest, with all the water we have right now, and the fact there’s not much demand on the system, a spill is very potential for next year.”
The contractors can start in August, get out in April and begin work again August 2011, if need be.
“The first thing they’ll do is blasting, because that will immediately increase the capacity of the spillway,” says Purcell. “And John Lawson and the Bureau of Reclamation need to know how much water spills, so we can’t really have a situation where half the new weir is in. It has to be an integral controlled area in preparation for next year.”
Water year, Lawson concerned about 2011 inflowsWritten by Christy Martinez
Laramie – While recapping the 2010 water year, Bureau of Reclamation (BuRec) Wyoming Area Manager John Lawson said he’s already worried about next year.
“Everyone is saying how great our water year was, and they see it as a positive, but in June and July I was not that enthusiastic about it,” said Lawson of the water year in the North Platte system and its seven reservoirs under BuRec operation. Lawson spoke to the annual meeting of the Wyoming Water Association in Laramie in late October.
“We ran out of space, and it came as a surprise,” said Lawson. “In over 100 years of records, we’ve never had the inflow that occurred this year in Seminoe. At one point we were getting approximately 20,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) coming in. That may not mean a lot, but to put it in perspective, right now the North Platte is running at about 400 cfs. For five days, every 24-hour period we were filling two High Savery Reservoirs.”
Of the Pathfinder Dam spill, Lawson noted that, in his opinion, there is no dumber animal on the planet than the human being. He spoke of members of the public who would creep out on the wet rocks immediately next to the waterfall.
“I still shake my head, to this day. This was a tremendous waterfall – there were waterfalls coming down the other side of the canyon from the mist. They were crawling down steep rock with that wet situation, and if anyone had fallen in, that first step would have been a big one,” he said.
In the entire system, Lawson said being able to store more water by allowing Pathfinder to spill is what saved the situation. “That required us to keep raising it to store more water. It stores 1.16 million acre-feet, and we were up to 1.6 million acre-feet, and we thought we’d have to go farther than that.”
Lawson said 7,500 cfs was released through Casper, which required a tremendous amount of coordination. “We got a hold of the emergency management people, and all the counties and state reps from Nebraska and Wyoming. Every morning on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday we’d have a phone call to update them. I feel good about how everybody came together to manage it.”
After Seminoe and Pathfinder, the next significant reservoir is Glendo. “We were within a foot of topping Seminoe, were already two feet over the spillway at Pathfinder, and the Army Corps of Engineers was directing releases from Glendo,” said Lawson of Glendo entering the exclusive flood control pool. “We were releasing 7,500 cfs, and the Corps cut us down to about 1,000 cfs. We were passing 7,500 through Casper, and it was raining in the lower basin, and the Corps said to shut off releases. I’ve heard what a great walleye fishery that resulted in.”
“Everything was full – Gray Rocks filled and had 5,000 cfs coming out below our dams, and there was no place to take it, so we had to suck it up and take everything in Glendo,” he added. “There wasn’t a dry picnic table at Glendo, and the bad news was if you wanted to use a restroom on the 4th of July.”
When it was all said and done, Lawson said total space in the system is 2,787,000 acre-feet. On June 28 the system held 2,952,000 acre-feet. Three years ago, in 2007, the entire system held a mere 700,000 acre-feet.
“On June 28 we had three million acre-feet in the system, and this September we ended with two million acre-feet. Even to get to two million we had to evacuate out ownership,” noted Lawson. “We basically had to release 175,000 acre-feet in addition to demand to get down to two million, and that wasn’t an easy thing. A few irrigators are still questioning what I’m doing, because three years ago we were in a situation where we were just about out of water, and this year I’m ‘dumping’ water out of those ownerships.”
Lawson said the reason for evacuating the water is the snowtels, which measure snow water equivalent throughout the winter and spring.
“We got surprised this year, and we’re still not clear what the conditions were that occurred. This year’s snowpack on March 1 was well below average. In 2006 we were relatively well above average. On March 1 in 2006 we forecast 875,000 acre-feet of inflow, and this year we forecast 590,000 acre-feet on March 1.”
“We were going along with snowpack at low levels – not taking any action or releasing any water, and we were feeling pretty good about it,” he continued. “By April 1, we thought we knew what we were doing. Snowpack was still way down, but we increased the forecast to 650,000 acre-feet of water.”
“By mid-April our snowpack was dropping, and still considerably below average. When it started to go up a little, we increased the forecast to 800,000 acre-feet. When we got all done, we ended up with 2,242,000 acre-feet of water. In 2006, with above average snowpack all season, we ended up with only 546,000 acre-feet. Explain that,” said Lawson. “I can’t, other than that we started to get rain, and I’m interested in the bark beetle discussions. I think they did have some effect in what was going on, and the rate the snowpack came off.”
In 2010 the system received over two million acre-feet of water in a 12-month period, and 1.6 million of it came in the four runoff months.
Looking back to 1997, Lawson said the system received 1,072,000 acre-feet of inflow without a problem, but the snowpack was also above average way back in December. “In 1997 we evacuated water in March, April and May, and we didn’t get in trouble. If we have snowpack like in 1997, I can see the irrigator smiling, and he’s saying that I can dump some water.”
On the other hand, he says 2011 could be a year like 2002, when the system only received 118,000 acre-feet of inflow. “That gives you an idea of what we deal with on a year-to-year basis, and the swing we have. If we’re low, those gates will remain tight. If we’re in an above-average range in March and April, there will be some hard decisions, and I’ll look to a lot of people for advice,” he commented.
Looking ahead, Lawson said he’s worried about next year. “You’ve heard the horror stories about this year, but come next year, you tell me. I’ve got two million acre-feet in the reservoir. Come March 1, if I’m below average on snowpack, what do you do? Come April, if we’re still below average, what do you do? That’s the point. We’ll have to watch this very closely.”
Lawson recounts 2010 inflows in North Platte systemWritten by Christy Hemken
Casper – “I didn’t know how true it was when, back in April, I said I was looking forward to August,” says Bureau of Reclamation Wyoming Area Office Manager John Lawson when speaking of the 2010 water season on the North Platte River system.
“We’ve got water from one end of the basin to the other, and we’re trying to figure out what to do with it,” he says of the tremendous inflows central Wyoming experienced this spring.
“The system holds 2.8 million acre-feet, and on June 28 we had three million acre-feet in the system, because of the water spilling. Between June 1 and the end of September I’m attempting to evacuate one million acre-feet from the system,” says Lawson. “And we’ll still end with two million acre-feet in the system on Sept. 30.”
“When we started getting sustained inflows, we broke all historic records,” says Lawson. “At one point we had 20,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) coming into Seminoe, and we sustained over 19,000 cfs coming in for seven days. To put it in perspective, Guernsey Dam only holds 45,000 acre-feet, and in 24 hours we were receiving 40,000 acre-feet into Seminoe. We were basically getting a Guernsey Dam a day for seven days. Needless to say, the reservoir was filling at a dramatic rate.”
Lawson says Seminoe Reservoir holds 1.17 million acre-feet, and it was fast approaching 1.1 million. “I had to get this stopped, so we started releasing immediately. At one point we were releasing 16,000 cfs through the spillway at Kortes Dam through the Miracle Mile, and now we’ve got some work to do out there. All the nice fishing piers we had – they’re all gone,” he says.
In 1983 and 1984 high inflows there was an old wooden bridge on the Miracle Mile, and it was saved by cutting a new river channel on the right side of the bridge. “When I came here we had the new one designed and put in place, and I couldn’t remember what it was designed for, so I called the head designer, who’s retired now, and he said he thought it was 10,000 cfs, and I said it better not have been. We started ratcheting up the outflow, and we got to 16,000 cfs under the bridge, and we thought we might be able to crowd another 1,000, and I was prepared to tear out the right abutment to move water around the bridge,” explains Lawson.
He adds he was also concerned with the pine trees along the miracle mile, that their root systems might weaken and they’d head toward the bridge in the velocity of water that was flowing.
“So the 16,000 cfs outflow through the Miracle Mile meant that Pathfinder was going up, and we already knew we were running out of room,” says Lawson. “We started calculating how far we could drive Pathfinder up over the spillway, because the higher we could get Pathfinder built up over the spillway, the more storage space we had. Pathfinder holds 1.16 million acre-feet, and we had it close to 1.6 million acre-feet at the height of the spill. That’s when I started getting a hold of the emergency management people, from the head of Lake Mcconaughy and all points to Casper.”
“We didn’t really know where we were going. We were looking at the snowpack, and asking where it was coming from,” says Lawson. “What happened was the temperature dipped in April. It got cold and we didn’t have our normal runoff, the snow sat there and then we got more snow and rain. Then all the sudden it got really hot.”
“You cannot have a worse situation, than when you have cold that delays the runoff, then rain on top of snow. It’s your worst nightmare,” he says.
“On top of that, three years ago this September, in this system that was at three million acre-feet this year, we only had 700,000 acre-feet in the entire system,” says Lawson. “That’s how fast this thing has turned on us. Three years ago I was advising everyone that if we didn’t have a turnout we’d drain Pathfinder, and we’d have it as a flow-through.”
“We’re releasing 4,500 cfs out of Gray Reef right now, and we were releasing 7,000 cfs a little over a week ago. In Casper the flow got up to around 7,600 to 7,700 through Casper itself,” he says, adding that the only time the flow’s been higher was in 1983 when it almost reached 9,000 cfs. “I wasn’t looking forward to that, and I know that river has considerably changed and shrunk as far as capacity, and I knew the problems we had in ’83.”
“You’re seeing the water coming at you, and it won’t stop. For 20 days we had more than 12,000 cfs come into Seminoe, and we were trying to figure out where it was coming from and when it was going to stop,” he notes.
When Glendo Reservoir reaches the flood pool at 517,000 acre-feet the Corps of Engineers takes over releases. “They’re looking downstream at the flooding in Nebraska, and I’ve got no place to go, and they’re saying stack it. We got just under 720,000 acre-feet in Glendo before we got it stopped, and that was just over a week ago,” he explains.
“We’re releasing 7,000 cfs from Guernsey now, and we’ll release that much until the end of September. I will end this year with 300,000 more acre-feet than we even had last year, and I have to dump 200,000 acre-feet of ownership just to get it out,” he continues. “But I’m betting on the fact that we’ll have, even if it’s less than average next year, enough runoff to fill the ownership back up.”
Even releasing at that rate, Lawson estimates Glendo Reservoir won’t leave the flood pool until Aug. 7. “We’ll end Glendo this year with 240,000 acre-feet of water. Glendo was built to relocate Pathfinder water all winter, and we normally get Glendo down to 90,000 to 100,000 acre-feet by fall. This year I’ll sit at 240,000 acre-feet. I expect by May next year I’ll already be in the flood pool, easily.”
“We’re already running the numbers for next year. We ducked the bullet on this one, and we’re starting to figure out what kind of a bullet might come next year, and how we’re going to manage it,” he says. “It all came out good this year, and I’ve got a tremendous staff. We were here day and night running calculations, and people in the field 24/7 checking reservoir levels. If you’ve got a foot left on the spillway, in the middle of the night you want to make sure that gauge is working.”
“It’s a nightmare,” says Lawson of his job managing the North Platte River system, and others under his office. “It’s a nightmare, but it’s fun. But it’s still a nightmare.”