By Michael Howell
The County Commissioners decided last Friday to file an objection to the water right application recently filed by the U.S. Forest Service for in-stream flows on Lost Horse Creek. The water right being sought is for in-stream flows in the creek while it traverses Forest Service land and would not affect any existing water rights held by downstream users. It is a non-consumptive use that would not involve diversion of any water from the stream.
It is the latest in a string of in-stream flow water rights being pursued by the agency to protect the fisheries on Forest land. Several water rights have already been granted in the county and the agency has plans to file more.
The Board of County Commissioners filed objections to the claims on Blodgett and Laird Creeks but those objections were rejected by the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation due to lack of standing, since the county does not possess any water rights that would be affected. According to agency regulations, only entities that hold existing water rights that may be affected may file an objection in the process.
The commissioners did recently set up a fund to collect donations to pay for consultation with a Wyoming law firm that offered to devise a “template” to be used in filing this type of water right objection that might gain acceptance or at least be more defensible in court. According to Commission Chairman Jeff Burrows, the County Attorney’s office may have engaged that law firm in a few telephone consultations but no work was actually done and no template provided. As a result, he said, the objections being filed are basically identical to the ones filed previously by the county and he expects the same result, that is, a rejection due to lack of standing.