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County water study well underway


December 12, 2019

The county’s year-long study to find a solution for water issues in the area around Carlile is now well underway, the county commissioners heard last week. Landowner surveys have been sent out and collected and well sampling has taken place across the study area.

According to Jaime Tarver, Senior Project Manager, one of the most important next steps for the study will be to identify “champions” among the landowners who are interested in pushing forward with the ideas that may come out of it.

The study, under the direct supervision of Wyoming Water Development, will investigate possibilities such as the formation of one or more water districts to tap into the Gillette Madison water system. The project came about after wells in the area began to run acidic or dry in 2017.

The study’s purpose is to identify the geology, hydrogeology and historical groundwater development in the area; to establish a baseline of groundwater quality; and to develop and evaluate concepts to provide safe drinking water to area residents near Carlile. Sheridan company DOWL has been contracted to perform the study, which will incorporate over 200 permitted wells within an approximately six-mile radius.

Tarver told the commissioners on Tuesday that, “We are in the middle of a lot of work”.

“We are through the survey part of the project,” she added, reporting an “excellent response rate”. So far, DOWL has conducted an initial public meeting and follow-up meeting followed by distribution of surveys to everyone in the study area registered with the county assessor by both mail and email where possible.

“We really reached out,” said Tarver, adding that follow-up calls were made to those people who did not respond.

A total of 391 parcels sit within the study area, 160 of them within the Town of Pine Haven. Of the 271 landowners associated with the parcels, 154 are outside the town.

DOWL received 70 responses in total, most of them from outside Pine Haven. Many within the town did not respond “simply because they already have water” and are not in need of a solution.

The response represented “darn near half of the property owners,” Tarver said, telling the commissioners that DOWL “really beat the bushes to get those responses back.”

Meanwhile, she said, Western Engineering has completed the first phase of well sampling and the results are expected relatively soon. Individual letters with the results will be sent to all the landowners whose wells were sampled.

Everyone has been accommodating and receptive to the testing, Tarver said. A total of 84 wells have been sampled, as well as four springs and four surface water bodies, and the results will provide a better picture of the water quality issues in the area.

DOWL has also been working on population forecasts and potential alternatives for water. The study’s conclusions will be based on growth projections gleaned from information such as septic data plotted over time and how quickly buildings have been developed.

This is important, said Tarver, because, “We don’t want to undersize a system”. Though DOWL intends to be respectful of landowners who neither foresee nor want any growth, Tarver explained that it’s important to plan for possibilities into the future.

Commissioner Jeanne Whalen expressed approval of this way of thinking, stating that the commission committed to the study because, if there is growth in the county, it’s likely that this is the area where it will occur.

According to Tarver, DOWL is likely to be ready to provide initial information on alternatives that have been developed in February. The first step at that time will be to bring the information to the commissioners, the Crook County Natural Resource District and Growth & Development for feedback.

Following this, said Tarver, public meetings will be held. She stressed that “champions” will be extremely important as the study enters its next phases.

“In the end, it’s going to take some organization to have these projects come to fruition,” she said. Now is the time to begin those conversations.

“It’s going to be [the landowners’] drive that puts a water district together and makes it work,” agreed Commissioner Fred Devish.


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