waterways

Bob Beck

The EPA’s announcement that it’s rolling back an Obama-era rule to expand regulations on the nation’s waters and streams is being cheered by Wyoming lawmakers who now are offering input on how to rewrite it.

Farmers and ranchers across Wyoming were up in arms over the regulation commonly referred to as the Waters of the U.S. rule. It would have expanded the scope of what the EPA and other federal agencies regulate, which had many fearing the government would be monitoring dry stream beds and puddles. Wyoming Senator John Barrasso praised the move.

Snake River in the Snake River Canyon of Wyoming near Alpine
Joe Tordiff

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is allowing a reclassification of nearly 80 percent of Wyoming’s waterways as secondary contact recreation. That means those streams are no longer recommended sites for swimming, tubing, fishing, or recreation in general — unlike the primary contact recreation status.

The DEQ’s Lindsey Paterson said these waters don’t make sense for recreation anyway. They’re shallow with little flow and are in remote areas. The change also means those waterways are allowed to hold five times the level of e. coli, an indicator for pathogens. 

USGS

The Sheridan Community Land Trust is partnering with the National Park Service to study and plan for increased water recreation in Sheridan County. The Land Trust has identified about 70 miles on the Tongue River and Little Goose and Big Goose Creeks with recreation potential. The group’s Executive Director, Colin Betzler, says there’s been interest in developing recreational opportunities in the past, but there hasn’t been an organized effort.