CHEYENNE, Wyo. – On May 24, Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman, together with Wyoming Governor Matthew H. Mead, Senators John Barrasso and Mike Enzi, and Representative Liz Cheney, announced collaborative plans to expand operational capacity at Fontenelle Reservoir. Governor Mead developed the Wyoming Water Strategy in 2015, which highlighted the Fontenelle Project.
For several years, Wyoming has sought to place riprap (rock or other material that protects against erosion) to expand the operating capacity of Fontenelle. The expansion will increase flexibility in operating the dam and reservoir – bolstering the region’s ability to resist frequent droughts in the arid West – all without increasing the footprint of the reservoir. Additional reservoir capacity will also make possible the creation of new water supplies which would be available for contracting and sale.
“Water is Wyoming’s most important natural resource,” said Governor Mead. “It is critically important to not only Wyoming but to our country. We need to address water challenges using all the best tools – like conservation, planning and infrastructure. As a headwaters state we recognize the need to protect and develop our water.”
“I applaud Commissioner Burman’s announcement that the Bureau of Reclamation will increase operational flexibility at Fontenelle Reservoir in southwest Wyoming,” said Senator Barrasso. “For years, I’ve been working to expand storage at Fontenelle. This announcement brings us one step closer to that goal. In order to start construction on this project, we must pass the Fontenelle Reservoir legislation. As chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, I included this bill in the bipartisan America’s Water Infrastructure Act. I’m confident we will pass this important water infrastructure legislation and make sure that communities in Wyoming have access to a reliable source of water.”
“I am glad that the Bureau of Reclamation and Wyoming are working together to help expand capacity at the Fontenelle Reservoir,” Senator Enzi said. “Water storage projects like this are vital to meet today’s water needs and keep water supplies secure and flexible into the future. I am also hopeful that Congress will act soon and Pass the Wyoming delegation’s legislation designed to help further along the Fontenelle project.”
“I’m pleased the Bureau of Reclamation is moving forward to expand the operational capacity of the Fontenelle Reservoir to help protect one of Wyoming’s most important resources,” Representative Cheney said. “The Fontenelle Reservoir expansion will help combat the effects of drought, help ensure our water infrastructure is properly developed and provide the potential for new commerce and recreation activity by creating new water supplies to be available for contracting and sale. This decision by the Bureau of Reclamation is an important and welcome step for Wyoming.”
Under existing law, Wyoming can apply for project funding under the Colorado River Storage Project Basin Fund Memorandum of Agreement. On April 30, Reclamation concluded that it would consider funding the project under this authority, and invited Wyoming to submit a funding request. Under the MOA, many Western water storage projects have received funding from Reclamation for operation, maintenance, and replacement activities. This federal funding can only be used to improve Colorado River Storage Project facilities and operations.
As an alternative to expanding operational flexibility under MOA funding, Wyoming is seeking Congressional approval to create additional water supply for contracting. Two bills which would authorize this plan, Senate Bill 199 and House Resolution 648, have been introduced by the members of the Wyoming Congressional Delegation.
“Reclamation is pleased to be a partner in the state and the delegation’s efforts to upgrade crucial water infrastructure at the Fontenelle Project,” said Commissioner Burman. “Improving access to reliable water supplies is a key priority for Reclamation and the Administration.”
“This is a great project,” said Governor Mead. “I am pleased to see it move forward.”
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