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Big Horn Basin landfill plan may be back on table

Six years ago, Park County split with a Big Horn Basin group planning the future of the region’s landfills over cost concerns.

Now, with landfills around the Basin facing higher costs and challenges, there’s some thought of getting the gang back together and revisiting the plans crafted between 2007 and 2009.

“I think since that time we’ve all learned a lot, and I think there might be some possibilities for a Big Horn Basin regional landfill plan,” Big Horn County Commissioner Keith Grant said last month. “And I would hope there’d be a lot of interest in looking at that again.”

“Well said,” agreed Park County Commission Chairman Loren Grosskopf.

The two spoke at a landfill meeting held Oct. 22 in the basement of the Park County Courthouse.

Park County Commissioner Bucky Hall said he believed the commission would be “ecstatic to reopen these discussions.” He noted the county has spent millions of dollars building a lined landfill cell in Cody but has yet to use it because of uncertainty over whether it will be economically feasible to operate.

“We need some help, or it will be a swimming pool. What are we going to do?” Hall said.

The commissioner said said he wanted staff from the Department of Environmental Quality — which regulates Wyoming landfills — to lead the meetings if regional discussions restart.

Craig McOmie, DEQ Integrated Solid Waste Management and State Recycling Coordinator, said it may be time to view the Basin as one planning area, bringing entities such as the cities of Powell and Thermopolis into the discussions. He said the cost and other landfill data should be available from the 2008 planning efforts.

“I think it’d be good to at least keep that dialogue alive while those numbers are still fresh,” McOmie said.

Whether regional talks will resume — and whether they’ll lead to any new solutions — remains to be seen.

Brian Edwards, a Park County landfill consultant with Holm, Blough and Co., said the numbers have been crunched, but “I think the bigger discussions are pretty political.”

Park County broke off from the rest of the Basin planning group in 2007 when the other counties selected a landfill planning consultant who was not the low bidder.

The landfill landscape has changed since the plans were completed, including the state Legislature making money available for shutting down old sites and for building garbage transfer stations.

“What we looked at in 2008 and what we’re looking at now, I think we’re a lot better informed,” said Grant.

No dates for a new meeting have been set.

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