Game and Fish Seek Instream Flow Water Rights to Protect Native Trout
The Wyoming Game and Fish Department hopes to secure streamflow protection for different sections of the Yellowstone River basin. These would be sections of Crandall Creek, Dead Indian Creek and Muddy Creek in the Clarks Fork.
The rationale is to protect fish habitat and keep the river flowing in streams for fisheries while protecting existing water users. Yellowstone cutthroat, in particular, are seeing significant population declines, which the Game and Fish say is because of water -- or lack thereof -- and nonnative fish species.
“Water is the most important part of fish habitat. Maintaining adequate amounts of water in streams year-round is critical for maintaining and improving the long-term health of fish populations,” said Del Lobb, Game and Fish instream flow biologist.
Game and Fish conducted instream flow investigations on the three creeks in 2014 to determine flows needed to maintain the existing Yellowstone cutthroat populations. The proposed water rights would protect flows in 10 stream miles. All three stream segments are within the Yellowstone cutthroat trout’s native range.
“Securing these water rights means the streams will continue to flow naturally and provide critical habitat for spawning, passage and year-round survival of this species,” Lobb said.
Securing instream flow water rights has benefits for anglers and Wyoming, too.
“Instream flows don’t just benefit the Wyoming residents who fish. They also help Wyoming’s tourism industry, which largely depends on flowing streams that provide angling and boating opportunities and enhance sight-seeing, hiking, hunting and camping,” Lobb said.
Game and Fish prepared three applications for the instream flow water rights. The Wyoming Water Development Office — the official applicant for the State of Wyoming — submitted the applications to the Wyoming State Engineer’s office and conducted a water availability study funded by Game and Fish.
The State Engineer’s Office is holding a public hearing at 9 a.m. Nov. 16 at the Cody Regional Game and Fish office to share information and receive comments on the proposed water rights. The hearing will be recorded and made available for anyone unable to attend. The public hearing is a benchmark in a multi-step process to acquire instream flow water rights.
If the water rights are approved by the State Engineer following the public hearing, these three stream segments will add to the 123 instream flow segments already secured for fisheries in Wyoming. Currently 512 miles — of the more than 25,000 miles of streams with fisheries in Wyoming — have permitted or adjudicated instream flow water rights for sport fisheries and native fish conservation.
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Gallery Credit: Kolby Fedore, Townsquare Media