Dec 6, 2016 - By Alejandra Silva, Staff WriterAnother phase of Riverton's ongoing water supply project is waiting on two agreements with the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes.
The entire project, which started in 2012, was initiated to improve the water supply for the city of Riverton.
The next piece to be completed requires an easement to go through tribal land west of the city's 2 million gallon water tank on Airport Road.
Years ago, the city approached the Joint Business Council about the issue and received a positive response.
However, since then the JBC has been dissolved.
"We were working with the JBC and had started a resolution," Riverton Mayor Lars Baker said, "but now we don't have a joint resolution in place."
During a presentation to the legislative Select Committee on Tribal Relations on Nov. 15 in Lander, Baker explained that both tribes have different approaches for giving easements.
The NABC would give a license agreement that would expire after seven years, while the ESBC would prefer its easement to be issued through the Bureau of Indian Affairs and be in place for a longer period of time.
The issue is further complicated by the BIA, which would require both tribes to sign the same easement agreement. In addition, the Wyoming Water Development Commission, which awarded Riverton a grant to fund the transmission lines, said an easement that's only good for seven years would need to be "auto-renewing ... to protect the investment of the State of Wyoming," according to city public works director Kyle Butterfield.
Work it out
It will take time for this situation to work itself out, Baker said.
City leaders plan to meet with newly elected members of the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho business council in hopes of getting agreements in place that would allow the city to install the 1,000-foot transmission line required for the water supply project, which is 90 percent complete.
Wyoming Rep. Lloyd Larsen, R-Lander, a member of the select committee, said meeting with the new councils could help resolve the issue.
Wyoming Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, who chairs the select committee, suggested the city contact local telecommunication companies for guidance, since telecommunications services hit a similar road block recently in Fremont County when they were trying to obtain easements from the tribes.
This is a "new era of no JBC," Case said, and if there can't be a joint approval then perhaps there can be a simultaneous approval that can work.
He also pointed out that there are reasons each tribe seeks a different type of agreement, and it's "very complicated."
"We need to respect all sides of this," he said.
The WWDC gave the city an extension of three years starting July 2017 to complete the project, Butterfield said.
When asked by the committee if the transmission line would benefit tribal members, Butterfield said new equipment could be installed for future distribution lines to extend water supply in the area.
The first two phases of the water supply project focused on fire flow on Griffey Hill and redundancy in the Riverview Road area.
Fire flow is the amount of water available at all times for providing fire protection at a selected location.
The first phase finished in 2013 when a transmission line was installed from the city's tank at the water treatment plant to the city's newest 2-million gallon water tank at Griffey Hill near the Wind River Job Corps site.
The WWDC provided grant and loan funding for the project, while the city was responsible for 23 percent of costs.
Butterfield said the WWDC approved an additional $3.6 million for Phase 3 to help improve pressures and flows. The city will provide fire flow for the WRJC and support the tank at the water treatment plant. Funding also came from the WWDC.
Also part of the water supply project, two booster pumping stations were constructed at the site of each tank which will help improve fire flow at Riverton Regional Airport.
In addition, a pressure project was completed in 2015 to help loop the water main to Riverview Road.
The transmissions lines in phase 3 continue south to Riverview Road.
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