Our View: Thirsty eyes should look elsewhere
Once again, people are eyeing water flowing through Green River and the Flaming Gorge as a solution to their water problems.
This time however, those eyes are coming from the other side of the Continental Divide. As part of Gov. Matt Mead’s possible water initiatives, one of the projects listed could result in water being diverted from the Upper Green River Basin to the North Platte River. While details of such a project don’t appear to be beyond an initial idea phase, officials from the Green River City Council, Sweetwater County Board of County Commissioners and local state representatives have already voiced opposition to such a move.
We wholeheartedly agree with their stances opposing transbasin diversion and want to lend our voice in their opposition. As we see it, transbasin diversion would only bring a negative impact on the people of Sweetwater County, as well as those living downstream.
Transferring water would impact our ability to develop the plentiful natural resources within Sweetwater County, hurting our local economy and impacting the state’s ability to generate revenue. The obvious victim to a transbasin diversion would be the industrial complex on par with Alberta, Canada’s Heartland complex. A large development on that scale would require a large amount of water. Another victim to a transbasin diversion would be development of the incredible lithium resources found east of Rock Springs, potentially killing an important piece of Sweetwater County’s future economy.
Another potential problem with transbasin diversion would be how it would impact everything downstream of the Flaming Gorge Reservoir. According to Rep. Stan Blake (D-Green River), who sits on the Wyoming Legislature’s Select Water Committee, Lake Mead is roughly 10 feet above the level lake officials designated as a point to consider drastic measures to fill the lake. There is also a fear that lower basin states may begin to flex their legislative muscle to allocate more water to them if the drought continues.
Pulling water from a system flowing into lower basin states may speed up a political response to dwindling water supplies.
We have nothing to gain and everything to lose if the state decides moving forward with a transbasin diversion project. We would lose economic opportunities while potentially facing legislative challenges from states thirsting for water.
Early opposition for diversion and support for other options, such as cloud seeding, should divert attention away from the Upper Green River Basin while helping stabilize water supplies in Wyoming and further downstream.