The Healthy Rivers Initiative presented to the Lander City Council meeting on Tuesday, March 28. The Healthy Rivers Initiative (HRI) pulls together a variety of user groups and advocates to identify, develop and implement voluntary measures and best practices for managing the Popo Agie River watershed during times of low flows. Their mission is to ensure the vitality of the river by improving the water quality, quantity, and biological health of the river so that it better supports domestic, agricultural, recreation, fish and wildlife uses.
HRI has accomplished a variety of projects over the past year. Popo Agie Conservation District (PACD) has been awarded a Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) multi-year funding whereby the City of Lander water and sewer projects were a cash match. As participants in HRI, PACD is an active funding partner for the City of Lander’s Section 205 Flood Mitigation project. A Level 1 Phase 2 study of the Popo Agie watershed was completed in 2019 in partnership with PACD, examining microstorage opportunities, underground storage and retrieval, and irrigation Infrastructure assessment, including updating the 2003 spreadsheet water budget model for the entire watershed. In 2019 and 2020 HRI organized a fall release of City Municipal Storage water at Worthen to improve water quality and quantity during late-season low flows. In 2022, HRI developed an agricultural task force to help with project efforts.
HRI has supported a City application for a grant to study and explore options to raise Worthen water storage levels to better support domestic, agricultural, recreation, fish and wildlife uses. The partners monitor the movement of the Farthing Slip and have applied for state grants for ditches in the watershed including the Cemetery Ditch of which the City of Lander is a user.
Wyoming Game and Fish also completed a fish habitat study in the area which will be helpful for future projects. That Fisheries study will be presented to the public later this spring. Last fall, Amanda Small was hired as a part-time watershed coordinator to lead HRI projects and initiatives. According to Amanda Small, “I’m excited to be working with the community, HRI partners and Irrigators within the Popo Agie Watershed.”
HRI will continue to work with various ditch groups to inventory their needs. HRI partners are also hosting an irrigation workshop on April 6th at the Lander Library at 6:00 pm. The Garden Expo will be held on April 22 at Lander Valley High School and HRI will have a booth at the event. They will also be hosting a speaker, Lance VandenBoogart with the National Weather Service, to discuss the spring water outlook for Fremont County.
HRI partners include citizens, the Popo Agie Conservation District, City of Lander, US Fish and Wildlife Service, US Forest Service, Wyoming Game and Fish Department, The Nature Conservancy, Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality and Natural Resources Conservation Service.