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Environmental meeting draws students, locals

Environmental meeting draws students, locals

May 10, 2017 - By Alejandra Silva, Staff Writer

Game management and the Riverton processing site were among topics discussed.

Interested community members were able to ask questions, obtain information and voice their concerns again this year at the second annual environmental meeting, which the Northern Arapaho Tribe hosted Tuesday at the Wind River Hotel and Casino.

Local students were also given an earlier time slot in the day to meet with representatives of the Department of Energy- Office of Legacy Management, the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Geological Survey, the Wyoming Associations of Rural Water Systems and the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Several agencies had booths set up to provide an open forum format with the opportunity to meet individually with attendees. Others who presented came from Central Wyoming College, the University of Wyoming, the University of Utah and the Northern Arapaho tribe's natural resource, environmental and solid waste programs.

Radio collars

Many programs displayed information about their latest work in Fremont County. Pat Hnilicka, assistance project leader with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, gave an update on the roughly 21 bighorn sheep from the Wind River Indian Reservation that were outfitted with radio collars in March.

There are 75-85 bighorn sheep on the reservation. The collars will allow trackers to see where the animals go during the winter while also monitoring possible diseases, Hnilicka said.

"With winter on the reservation we really didn't know where they went," he said.

Shoshone and Arapaho Tribal Fish and Game representatives were supportive of the plan to apply the collars and collaborated with the University of Wyoming, Wyoming Fish and Game and Hnilicka's group to move forward with the project.

The same partnership was used to carry out the latest radio collaring operation on mule deer on the reservation. The tribal fish and game groups suggested applying radio collars for the first time to mule deer, and after working out the specifics, 14 mule deer were equipped with the systems that will allow tracking of diseases.

"We're a little concerned," he said. "Some have died of pneumonia in the past."

There isn't a current outbreak that's killing several mule deer, he noted, but it's critical to keep a close watch on them anyways.

"We're hopeful they'll be disease free," he said.

Processing site

Representatives from the U.S. Department of Energy were also present to answer any questions about the processing site two miles southwest of Riverton. Often, questions are asked about whether the water is contaminated or what the current operation is. Site manager William Frazier was available to answer questions.

From 1958 to 1963, the site was a uranium- and vanadium-ore processing mill that contaminated the soil and groundwater. The DOE removed the contaminated soil in 1988 and 1989, but contamination remains in the shallow groundwater beneath the site.

The DOE said contaminated ground water is not used for drinking. In order to help visitors understand what part of the aquifer is used for drinking, the department provided visuals that allowed the public to see the aquifer system beneath the Riverton site.

The public was also informed about the alternate water supply system and several domestic wells on the site that provide water for people who live nearby.

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