Wyoming is enjoying a good water year, with snow water equivalents mostly above average and runoff predictions positive for the reservoir, according to Bureau of Reclamation representatives speaking at Powell area irrigation district meetings this week and last.
The reservoir supplies potable and irrigation water to downstream users.
Still, the Bureau of Reclamation, which operates Buffalo Bill, has a few projects at the dam. The local irrigation districts — Deaver, Willwood, Shoshone and Heart Mountain — will be asked to pony up funding for repairs on one project.
Coleman Smith, the Mills-based Bureau of Reclamation Wyoming area manager, told attendees at the Feb. 4 Heart Mountain Irrigation District’s annual meeting that the bureau is predicting good runoff into the reservoir this spring.
The Bureau of Reclamation is predicting 720,000 acre feet inflow to Buffalo Bill during the April through July runoff, Smith said.
The department predicted 600,000 acre feet during the same period in 2013. The 30 year (1983-2012) average is 668,500 acre feet.
Inflow actually was 576,400 acre feet for the April through July 2013 period, according to Lyle Myler, Bureau of Reclamation Wyoming area deputy manager, who spoke at Shoshone Irrigation District’s annual meeting on Feb. 5.
As of Tuesday, snow water equivalent for the Shoshone River basin was at 131 percent for this time of year, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service. That percentage is based on an average between 1981 and 2010.
The statewide average was 124 percent, and the Big Horn River basin was 145 percent Feb. 11, according to the NRCS.
“The numbers are looking good this year,” Smith said, adding he hopes the temperatures will remain low to retain the snow in the mountains until spring and additional snow storms arrive in a timely manner.
What goes up
The elevator that transports workers from the bottom of the Buffalo Bill Dam to the top of the dam prior to raising it in the 1990s requires repairs and Shoshone Irrigation Project districts will have to pay a share under the dam’s annual operations and maintenance invoice.
The bid to make those repairs was estimated at $428,000. Estimated completion is April 2014.
“The irrigation districts are going to pick up a share of that cost,” Myler said.
Deaver would pay 2.3 percent; Heart Mountain, 4.9 percent; Shoshone, 5.65 percent and Willwood, 1.8 percent. Districts would be required to pay it in one lump sum. That bill would probably come due at the end of 2014.
The exact dollar figure will not be known until the project is completed, Smith said.
“It’s older than I am,” Mark Skoric, Bureau of Reclamation Big Horn Basin facilities manager, said on Feb. 6.
The elevator was installed in the late 1940s or early 1950s, Skoric said.
The elevator’s rusty rails will be replaced and a new pulley installed. Anchor bolts securing the ladder that runs the length of the elevator shaft will also be replaced, Skoric said.
That dam sediment
One hundred years worth of sediment is building up.
Sediment is building up at the base of the dam, according to a sonar survey conducted in 2012. The intake to the dam’s power plant is “silted-in,” Smith said at Willwood Irrigation District’s annual meeting Monday.
Preliminary analysis suggest 8/100s of one foot is collecting per year, Smith said. Dredging the sediment at that elevation is costly, but the districts would not be required to help with those costs, Smith said.
All dams accumulate sediment, but Buffalo Bill accumulates more than most, Smith said.
BuREC will decide whether sediment work is needed. “Maybe next year we’ll have something for you,” Myler said to the Shoshone Irrigation District employees and users on Feb. 5.