Water Rights

As many of you know, I have a decades-long career in fighting to protect Wyoming’s water rights. I am proud of that work, and I believe that it places me in a perfect position to represent you as Governor of our great State of Wyoming. Sadly, some have now sought to tarnish that record, distorting the work that I have done, most specifically in relation to the Colorado River Compact.  To this, I can say flatly that I have never worked to give, transfer or bargain away Wyoming’s water to Colorado or any other State, and to suggest otherwise is ludicrous.

First a bit of history about my career.  I was hired by the State of Wyoming in 1997 to represent our great State as one of the lead trial attorneys on Nebraska v. Wyoming, the dispute over the North Platte River. I have since spent the last twenty-one years fighting to protect Wyoming’s water rights, to enforce our water laws, to ensure that our water right holders are able to access and use their property rights, to ensure that our municipalities are able to provide water resources to our citizens into the long distant future, to preserve our farming and ranching heritage, and to enforce Wyoming’s entitlements under the various interstate compacts and decrees to which we are parties.

In addition to being an expert on the North Platte River Decree and Modified Decree, I also have extensive experience in the Niobrara River Compact, the Laramie River Decree, the Belle Fourche River Compact, and the Colorado River Compact.

Water is perhaps our most important resource.  There are few people in Wyoming with a comparable degree of understanding and experience related to our intrastate and interstate water rights and entitlements.  As Governor I will draw from this extensive experience and knowledge to defend Wyoming’s water rights with the same passion and vigor as I have done during my career.

One issue has now become the subject of strange rumors and, frankly, pretty wild accusations about my work related to the Colorado River Compact.  Those accusations are untrue.

In essence, the Compact is a hundred-year-old agreement which apportioned the Colorado River system between the Upper Basin States (Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah) and the Lower Basin States (California, Arizona, and Nevada), with both the Upper Basin and Lower Basin States being apportioned 7.5 million acre feet of water. As for the Upper Basin States, Colorado owns 51.75%, Wyoming owns 14%, Utah owns 23% and New Mexico owns 11.25%.  Each State’s entitlements under this Compact are, in my opinion, absolute.  We in Wyoming can use our water as we see fit – a right that no other State can interfere with, and one that I will fight to the end to protect for our great State of Wyoming.

Of course, if we want our water rights to be respected, we must do the same for our neighboring States. If Wyoming has the right to decide where, when and how it will use its water, other States, likewise, rightly enjoy these same rights. It is that simple. If you believe in interstate water law, if you believe in the importance of stability and certainty in water right administration, and if you believe in the importance of protecting our entitlements under interstate water compacts and decrees, you have to acknowledge that other states have water rights as well.

The Flaming Gorge Reservoir was constructed to ensure that the Upper Basin States would be able to exercise their entitlements under the Compact.  Colorado, being one of the Upper Basin States, would thus be entitled to construct a pipeline from the Flaming Gorge Reservoir to the front range in order to use its water as stored therein, and no other State should have the right to stop it.

I was hired many years ago by several public water providers in Wyoming and Colorado to explore the feasibility of constructing a pipeline from the Flaming Gorge Reservoir to eastern Wyoming and Colorado.  Our work in that regard is not the “Million project,” and has several critically important differences to what he was considering.  In evaluating that project we have worked closely with a variety of people and organizations in Western Wyoming to look at the full gamut of issues, from economics, to mitigation, to future manufacturing needs, to municipal demands, to recreation, and to subordinating water rights in order to provide long-term protections to Western Wyoming.  These discussions have been informative, robust, and far-reaching.

I have been a strong voice at the table on this issue to ensure that Wyoming’s water is protected for Wyoming. I have worked on this project to explore options to use Wyoming’s water in Wyoming to prevent it from going downstream to California, Nevada, and Arizona, which is where it goes now. I have engaged with folks from both Eastern and Western Wyoming, as well as the front range of Colorado to come up with innovative ideas for managing our water resources in order to meet the long-term demands and needs of the State as a whole. I have sought to find ways to protect future water for Western Wyoming’s usage, while also finding ways to manage this resource to provide benefits here, rather than just letting the water flow to the Lower Basin States.

The Colorado River Compact is complicated. Western water law is complicated.  Finding ways to meet our long-term water demand throughout Wyoming is difficult. The politics of water policy is also complicated.

It is important to have a leader in the Governor’s office who understands the complexities of these issues, someone who is willing to work with all of the stakeholders to develop long-term ideas and plans of action to make sure that we can properly manage our resources and our entitlements for Wyoming as a whole. I am that person. And I am ready to take up this challenge and the many others that come with it, because that is what I have dedicated my career to doing.