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Water: Nonpoint Source Success Stories

Section 319 Success Stories, Vol. III: Wyoming

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Jackson Hole Rodeo Grounds Snow Storage Site:
Filtration System Reduces Urban Storm Water Runoff

 

Contact:
Brian Lovett
Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality
122 West 25th Street
Herschler Building, 4th Floor
Cheyenne, WY 82002
307-777-5622
blovet@state.wy.us

Primary Sources of Pollution:

  • urban storm water runoff
  • runoff from snow storage area


Primary NPS Pollutants:

  • heavy metals
  • oils
  • suspended solids


Project Activities:

  • installation of storm water filtration system


Results:

  • successful removal of storm water particulates

Flat Creek is in the Upper Snake River watershed. Upstream of the town of Jackson, within the National Elk Refuge, the creek is a Class 1 trout stream. Historically, Flat Creek has provided diverse recreational opportunities and aesthetic value to the residents and visitors of Jackson as it meanders through the community. For many years, however, it has become increasingly apparent that once the creek enters the town, fish habitat quality is significantly diminished.

In response to these concerns, the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality and Jorgensen Engineering completed a water quality assessment of Flat Creek in 1982. The study revealed a number of factors affecting water quality, including increased impervious surface area, increased traffic volume, and land uses resulting in concentrations of heavy metals, oils, and suspended solids. The study also found that urban storm water was adversely affecting Flat Creek.

In 1994 the Teton County Conservation District (TCCD), in cooperation with the Town of Jackson, conducted a thorough investigation of nonpoint source pollutants affecting Flat Creek. This comprehensive program, which included establishing permanent monitoring stations in key areas, identified the snow storage area at the rodeo grounds as a significant source of nonpoint source pollutants.

The TCDD, Town of Jackson, and Nelson Engineering prepared a grant proposal for installation of a commercially available storm water filtration system and submitted the proposal to the Wyoming Nonpoint Source Task Force. The project was approved for funding in the amount of $32,735 in the fall of 1997.

In the course of determining the necessary sizing of the filtration unit, snowmelt runoff samples were collected and analyzed. This analysis revealed that the sediment load in the runoff would exceed the capacity of existing commercial units and require excessive maintenance. Given these findings, the Town Engineer and Nelson Engineering designed a surrogate filtration system. The new design lowered the project cost to $14,824, resulting in a savings of 50 percent over the cost of the commercial unit. Because of the experimental nature of the new design, an amendment to the grant proposal was sought and approved. The project was completed in the fall of 1998 and evaluated for effectiveness in the spring of 1999.

Project details

The Jackson Hole Rodeo Grounds cover 6.2 acres, with a 1-percent southwesterly slope. Snow removed from the streets of Jackson is stored on the western half of the lot. To improve drainage to the southwest corner of the site, where the filtration system is installed, the snow storage area was graded. In the immediate area surrounding the filtration system, a shallow detention basin was cut to provide a settling area for particulates prior to entering the filtration system.

The primary filter installed by the Town of Jackson is composed of 2-inch-diameter washed rock and a nonwoven geotextile fabric. Particles from runoff, 0.0059 inch or greater, are trapped and held in the top surface of the fabric in the gravels. The filtered runoff is collected in a 6-foot-diameter perforated manhole and then conveyed to a catch basin sediment trap that provides additional sediment removal and storage in a sump-type facility. Runoff then passes to the storm water collection system. The perforated manhole has 4 feet of effective depth with 1.5-inch perforations on 8-inch centers; the immediate filtering surface is 484 square feet (22 feet by 22 feet).

A winning combination

During the winter of 1998–1999, roughly 120,000 cubic yards of snow from the streets of Jackson was stockpiled at the rodeo grounds. The results of storm water runoff sampling collected during the spring runoff period were inconclusive, so Nelson Engineering was contracted to evaluate the system's effectiveness. The investigation found that the three-phase rodeo ground filtration system was effective in removing gross pollutants 0.0059 inch and larger. There was no evidence of sediment in the bypass, so the geotextile fabric was not replaced for the 2000 runoff season.

The design combination of sediment basin, geofabric, washed rock filtration, and sump for bypass flows was successful in removing particulates and can be used in areas of limited space. This application can be used with favorable results in urban areas where sediments are a storm water concern. The only modification to the system being considered is the use of filter fabric with a smaller sieve size.

 

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Muddy Creek Coordinated Resource Management Project:
Cattle Ranches and Trout Streams Can Coexist

 

Contact:
Brian Lovett
Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality
122 West 25th Street
Herschler Building, 4th Floor
Cheyenne, WY 82002
307-777-5622
blovet@state.wy.us

Primary Sources of Pollution:

  • erosion from heavy grazing


Primary NPS Pollutants:

  • sediment


Project Activities:

  • revised grazing management practices (short-duration grazing rotation)
  • livestock management (off-site watering, electric fencing, vegetation management)
  • prescribed burning


Results:

  • increase in plant cover trends on streambanks (documented from 5 percent in 1989 to more than 90 percent in 1995 in the Sulphur Springs Allotment)
  • easier cattle management
  • increased beef production

The Muddy Creek Coordinated Resource Management (CRM) project is one of the original national "Seeking Common Ground" demonstration projects. It encompasses nearly 300,000 acres of mixed federal, state, and private lands in Carbon County, Wyoming. Using the philosophy of ecosystem management on a watershed basis, the local conservation district initiated the CRM process to get all affected interests in the watershed working on consensus management of the natural resources in the project area. To date, more than 25 members representing private landowners; federal, state, and local agencies; environmental and conservation organizations; industry; and the public at large have worked on the project.

Many conservation and land management tools have been implemented to restore, enhance, and maintain the abundant natural resources in the area while maintaining the economic stability and cultural heritage of the people on the land. The ecosystem management philosophy dictates that before any action is taken or management practice implemented, all impacts and users of the area must be addressed. It is because of this philosophy and spirit of cooperation that the wildlife, livestock, and all the associated natural resources in the watershed have shown improvement since the project began. A comment from Millicent Sanger, whose family has been in the area since the 1930s, sums up the progress made: "I have never seen the water as clear and clean as it is now."

The CRM project contains several grazing allotments established when the Bureau of Land Management first began to permit grazing on federal lands. The following are some examples of the cooperation among people and the coordination of management practices implemented on grazing allotments that have contributed to the success of the Muddy Creek CRM project.

WY1_1

In 1989 vegetation cover on the banks of Muddy Creek was only about 5 percent.

Doty Mountain Allotment

"Getting to know the land, building relationships through communication, earning the trust so that people can identify their common ground and work together to achieve success" is what the CRM process means to Ray Weber of the Doty Mountain Allotment. Weber believes that "it takes commitment to not just work hard but to deal with the many diverse people and their interests" to make successful improvements on the land. In this case, just a simple change from spring to fall grazing was the solution. "What this CRM group and many others have found out is that our 'common ground' is much greater than our differences," Weber says, "so let's set our differences aside for the moment and work together to be successful."

Grizzly and Daly Allotments

Other types of changes in grazing practices have been implemented throughout the project area. For example, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) purchased the base property of the Grizzly and Daly Allotments and designated it as part of a wildlife and livestock demonstration project. Historical use of these allotments allowed for season-long grazing by cattle and sheep. Once the WGFD took ownership of the Grizzly Allotment, it implemented a short-duration grazing season. Each of the eight pastures was grazed for 7 to 21 days rather than the usual 60 to 90 days. This type of management promotes recovery of healthy riparian areas by giving plants plenty of time to grow.

But simply moving to a short-duration grazing rotation wasn't good enough for Jim Chant of the Desert Cattle Company. As the lessee of the Grizzly and Daly Allotments, Chant has shown a strong commitment to improving the resources and proving that wildlife and cattle can coexist beneficially. He and two full-time cowboys implement the WGFD's short-duration grazing season by herding the cattle out of the riparian areas and onto the uplands each afternoon. Not only does this approach improve utilization within each pasture, but it also reduces time spent in the lush riparian zones. In addition, improvements to facilitate livestock management such as spring developments, off-site watering, electric fencing (much of it solar-powered), high-tension fencing, and vegetation management are ongoing. A primary goal of the CRM group is to reintroduce the Colorado River cutthroat trout into Muddy Creek, whose headwaters are in the Grizzly Allotment. Once these upper portions of the watershed are in proper condition, trout will thrive. Chant says he wants to be the first rancher to run cattle next to a Colorado cutthroat trout stream, "to show it can be done."

Prescribed burning has proved extremely beneficial for livestock, wildlife, and vegetation communities in the Muddy Creek drainage. Burning upland areas allows sagebrush seedlings to sprout, thereby creating a more diverse age class of sagebrush. Also, the livestock are enticed away from the riparian areas to graze on the more desirable grasses produced by the burning. Fire removes the sagebrush competition so that aspen can expand its area in both riparian and upland sites. After burning, regrowth occurs quickly, and within a few years a larger, healthier community emerges.

WY1_2

By installing pasture fencing and using managed grazing rotations, ranchers were able to increase vegetative cover by 85 percent from 1989 conditions.

Sulphur Springs Allotment

The Sulphur Springs Allotment is managed by Millicent and Kathryn Sanger, a mother and daughter whose family has used this area since the 1930s. It was one of the first allotments for which management plans were developed in conjunction with the Bureau of Land Management during the 1960s. The various pastures in the allotment are used to control grazing time and use. This approach allows the Sangers to congregate the cattle in smaller areas, resulting in improved conception rates, easier management of the cattle, and overall increased beef production. Plant cover on the streambanks increased from only 5 percent in 1989 to more than 90 percent in 1995. Most of this change occurred after pasture fencing and managed grazing rotation were implemented. The Sangers appreciate how the land looks when they leave in the fall, knowing there is plenty of forage left for the elk and mule deer indigenous to the area.

Working together to be successful

Using various conservation and land management tools, a coalition of government agencies, private organizations, and individuals are making a difference in Carbon County. Their cooperative effort has resulted in benefits for waters, wildlife, and cattle ranches alike.


 

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