- Associated Press - Thursday, January 8, 2015

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - Some members of the state Water Development Commission voiced concerns Thursday about a lack of communication with lawmakers over developing a list of proposed water projects around Wyoming.

The 10-member Wyoming Water Development Commission is appointed by the governor to review and recommend proposed water supply projects around the state. The Legislature and governor approve and appropriate money for the projects.

The commission recently sent its recommendations to the Legislature’s Select Water Committee, which then added several projects to bills being drafted for consideration in the legislative session that starts next week. The projects currently proposed in the bills have a total price tag of about $66 million.

The added projects include $2.6 million for a spillway project at Bull Lake in Fremont County and $1.4 million for cloud seeding in four Wyoming mountain ranges. The water commission had previously rejected the Bull Lake project and never considered the cloud-seeding project.

Some commission members expressed frustration with not knowing about the changes.

Commission member Margo Sabec, of Casper, said the commission and the Wyoming Water Development Office put a lot of time and effort in reviewing projects and having projects added from “left field” can put the commission and office in a difficult position.

Commissioners said lawmakers can make any changes they want, but they wished there was more communication about the changes lawmakers were looking to make to avoid problems that might occur later. In addition, there was some concern that other lawmakers might not know the commission’s stance on the added projects.

Commission members cited problems caused when the 2014 Legislature approved studying a water system project in Park County that drew much opposition from residents in the area. The commission had not recommended the project but had to address many of the complaints and problems that arose.

“We just don’t want to have to go through that again,” commission member Karen Budd-Falen, of Cheyenne, said.

Harry LaBonde Jr., director of the Water Development Office, cautioned the commission that it shouldn’t do anything that might jeopardize legislative approval of the entire list of proposed water projects.

“I think it’s good for the state of Wyoming,” LaBonde said.

Commission Chairwoman Jeanette Sekan, of Cody, said she will try to discuss the commission’s concerns with the chairmen of the state Senate and House agriculture committees, which handle the water project bills in the Legislature.

Sen. Gerald Geis, R-Worland, is chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee and a member of the Select Water Committee.

Geis said he’d be happy to listen to the Water Development Commission’s concerns, but he noted that the commission has a great deal of authority over a project even if the Legislature approves money for it.

“All we do is appropriate the money, but they are the ones that dictate how it is to be spent,” he said. “It’s still in their ballpark.”

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