Letters to the Editor – July 19

Dear Crook County Residents,

The CCNRD would like to thank Crook County citizens for their past support and we ask for your continued support by voting yes for the conservation funding initiative. We would like to take this opportunity to explain why we will again be going on the ballot.

CCNRD is a grass roots organization with a publically elected board that is in place to help shape conservation in Crook County. The Board can shape the way federal dollars and programs in the areas of natural resources, conservation, and agriculture are implemented in our community. We are able to influence the policies set by federal agencies as they relate to natural resources locally. Our mission is to bring your voice to the table to make sure that our community’s values, culture and tax base are represented.

Currently CCNRD is reliant on funding it receives from competitive outside grants. The grants come from various sources, i.e. private, state, and federal, but they are project specific. These funds have allowed the District to combat the mountain pine beetle, implement water development/water improvement projects, provide valuable education to assist ranches in maintaining profitability and most recently help landowners take preventative measures to protect property from catastrophic fires.

Our current grants benefit Crook County; however, their specificity dictates where our staff spend their time. A mill levy will help provide more flexible funding.

The CCNRD receives annual base funding from the county commissioners in the amount of $45,000. This is the only flexible funding that we have, and it is used to cover basic/mandatory expenses for the District (utilities, dues, insurance, etc.) as well as expenses associated with the Electronic Recycling events. If a mill levy was secured this base funding would be returned to the County Commissioners’ budget.

Although, the CCNRD has been diligent at securing grant funding we are facing a NEW challenge—grantors have changed the way they allocate funding. They are no longer willing to give us grant money up front.

Instead, we are required to spend our own money on projects prior to seeking reimbursement. We have always been dependent on receiving grant money up front to conduct projects. Without upfront grant monies we will no longer be able to offer multiple cost share programs at once. A mill levy will help us build a bank account to cash flow existing grants; as well as expand our services to meet community needs.

The mil levy is vital to the continuation of current programs or future services. Expansion of services and projects would continue to be landowner driven and tailored to meet the specific natural resource concerns that are deemed important by the citizens of Crook County.

These dollars would also add to our local economy and contribute to the County sales tax revenues. We look forward to improving natural resources and serving residents outside of the previously designated priorities dictated by grantors.

Local leadership is essential in a time when many groups with, very limited knowledge or experience, are trying to influence the use of federal lands and money to impact natural resources. It is crucial that Crook County residents have a voice at the table.

A voice to make sure our interests are being protected in federal processes, and local knowledge and expertise in natural resources is heard. Please vote yes to help the CCNRD secure mil levy funding to ensure that the citizens of Crook County have a voice and the support to sustain our natural resource base for future generations to come.

Humbly serving Crook County,

CCNRD Board of Supervisors

Wayne Garman, Ted Parsons, Jennifer Hinkhouse, Wanda Burget and Lily Altaffer

Dear Editor,
The Carlile area landowners affected by the Gillette Madison Pipeline Project would like to convey a few key facts in order to clarify the issues that have been shared recently.
Nine years ago this particular project started with the City of Gillette beginning new drilling and eventually building pipeline from the wells near Carlile to Gillette, crossing land that has been in our families for generations. Over the course of these years there have been a multitude of issues with land reclamation, contract completion and communication.
Many of us have had problems with the city and their contractors trespassing outside of easements, fences not being replaced to Department of Transportation specs, gates not being put back in fence lines or being put in the wrong place, drainages changed entirely and more. These are issues that affect the daily operation of lives and businesses.
Despite this we continued to work with the City of Gillette. Like most Wyomingites we are people who abide by the code of the West; we are used to conducting business on a handshake and faith in a person’s good word. The City continually made promises that things would be returned to how they were found and we would be left whole.
When the City of Gillette asked to discharge water in order to get their wells online and move the project forward, we agreed thinking we were helping the city and that the water would potentially be good for our land and livestock. Instead, what happened was catastrophic. After the release of millions of gallons of water, multiple area wells went dry or turned acidic. Reservoirs that normally fill with runoff remained dry, despite a wet spring. We contacted the city, not to lay blame, but hoping to be put on the Madison pipeline that runs through our properties in order to have water for our homes and families foremost, but also for our livestock that provide our livelihood.
Several houses in the area had taps prior to this issue and are currently receiving water, so we knew it was possible. Despite this, we were denied access to any water.
In the meantime, those with affected wells contacted the Department of Environmental Quality for water testing to try to get some answers as to what happened to the quality of water. As a group we requested that no more water be discharged on our properties since there is speculation that the released water may have been what affected the aquifer.
Several of us were forced to drill new wells at tremendous cost in order for our homes to have water. We are awaiting the results of ongoing water tests.
Requests for assistance or open communication from the City of Gillette became more and more difficult. They began sending their lawyer and city manager out to us with legal documents and (what turned out to be) empty promises.
Eventually, we turned to Senator Driskill and Representative Lindholm for assistance since we are their constituents and at the end of the day the Gillette Madison Pipeline Project is using State of Wyoming money to develop State of Wyoming resources.
Senator Driskill immediately offered his assistance. Despite recent publications stating ethical issues with his involvement, his son-in-law and daughter’s ranch has not had trouble with their water and did not request water.
They have had issues with easement violations and contracts not being completed, but they were not part of the group of landowners who needed water. They worked with Representative Lindholm to get action from the City of Gillette. Their concerns and issues continue to be largely unaddressed.
Senator Driskill approached the issue with us as a matter of “good neighbors.” Here in ag country if your neighbor needs help, you help them. In this case, many of us needed clean drinking water and the City of Gillette has water running in their pipeline through our land.
Meetings were held, many of which the landowners were purposely excluded from, but the City of Gillette was included. There were no positive outcomes. When the city continually stonewalled and refused to provide water to those who needed it, Senator Driskill ran the amendment to provide water to the affected parties.
Senator Von Flatern was provided information about the amendment 24 hours before it was discussed on the floor of the Wyoming Senate. Senator Driskill disclosed his relationship to his daughter and her family’s ranch location during the amendment discussion, he also shared letters from us about what happened to our land and water wells.
The final bill passed with the intact amendment in the Senate 28-1 and in the House 51-5. Representative Clem was the only Campbell County legislator to vote no.
Our legislators in Cheyenne, from districts all over the state, including Crook and Campbell counties, saw and understood that we and Senator Driskill were only looking for the City of Gillette to be good neighbors and help us in our time of need. The amendment asked us to pay for the taps and the water, just like any municipal customer.
To date, the City of Gillette has refused to follow the legislation, which was signed by the Governor in March and okayed by the Attorney General – making it legal. We remain less than whole and with a bad taste in our mouths for the City of Gillette and their refusal to be good neighbors and honest stewards of the state of Wyoming’s resources.
It is our hope that the City of Gillette will choose to share the state of Wyoming’s resources with us in order that we may have potable water for our families and our businesses. We are thankful for the assistance Senator Driskill and Representative Lindholm have provided us in this process. We look forward to a positive outcome.
The Carlile Landowners
Bill Altaffer
Lily Altaffer
Ivan and Jennifer Cranston
Mike Cranston
Joey and Janet Kanode
Justin and Marti Wood
Matt and Andrea Wood
Minnie Williams and Family