By Bryce Reece, Casper, WY
Apparently a few people (i.e. her opponents and their supporters in her bid to become Wyoming’s lone Congressional representative) have been questioning Harriet Hageman’s work surrounding the Flaming Gorge reservoir.
Having known Harriet and her work to protect Wyoming’s water for the past 25 years, I feel compelled to correct some of the inaccuracies and misinformation that is being circulated.
Unlike her election opponents, Harriet Hageman is one of the foremost experts on Wyoming and Western water law in the United States.
She has fought numerous court cases advocating for and protecting Wyoming water right holders, and has even represented the state of Wyoming itself when other states have attempted to take our water.
She has fought to protect Wyoming’s water rights, to enforce Wyoming’s water laws, and to make sure Wyoming water rights holders were able to understand, access, utilize and protect their property rights.
She has also worked to ensure that Wyoming municipalities were able to provide water to their citizens, and she has tirelessly fought to preserve Wyoming’s ranching and farming industries.
She has taught Wyoming water law around the state, as well as continuing education to other lawyers, realtors, and a variety of industry groups to increase their understanding of the complexities of Wyoming water law.
Harriet has served as a vital resource to Wyoming legislators as they work to protect and enhance Wyoming water law.
Unlike her election opponents, Harriet has laid herself and her own money on the line time after time to protect and hold onto water that legally belongs to Wyoming and Wyoming water rights holders. Anyone who claims to the contrary is spreading disinformation—a tactic that may play well in the swamp, but is unwelcome here.
Western water law is complicated, as is interstate water law, particularly when interstate compacts are involved.
As for the Flaming Gorge Reservoir that straddles the Wyoming/Utah border, the fact is that both Wyoming and Colorado have rights to the water that is stored there. Importantly, the battle over the water in the Colorado River system isn’t between Colorado and Wyoming.
Being two of the “upper basin states” under the 1922 Colorado River Compact, they are actually allies. The real battle is between Wyoming and Colorado on the one hand, and California, Arizona, and Nevada on the other. It is the lower basin states that want to take our water, not Colorado.
For pure political expediency, there are now some who want voters to believe that Harriet, after a 25-year-career, suddenly changed course 180 degrees and attempted to “sell out” Wyoming’s water to a speculator.
I know for a fact that Harriet has never done anything that would compromise Wyoming’s water rights or entitlements under the Colorado River Compact (or any other interstate decree or agreement). Harriet has never looked at allowing Wyoming’s water to be used in Colorado, nor would she. You can visit my Facebook page if you want additional information about Harriet’s work.
Harriet has been a champion protecting Wyoming’s water for decades, a project with which I am intimately familiar. From 2013 through 2018, Bill Taliaferro of Rock Springs and I worked on an effort to utilize 250,000 acre feet of Wyoming water stored in Fontenelle Reservoir, again in southwestern Wyoming.
That water is currently underutilized, which means that it eventually flows to the lower basin states of Arizona, California, and Nevada but is lost to Wyoming. That water was originally intended by Congress to create a large irrigation project in southwestern Wyoming. That irrigation project was, in fact, the purpose for which Fontenelle Reservoir was built.
Although the federal government constructed the reservoir, and Wyoming continues to have rights to 250,000 acre feet of water stored there, the original irrigation project was never constructed.
Over the past 60 years, no viable project has been proposed for that water, and without one, the lower basin states have created a de facto “claim” for it.
The only hope to save that water for Wyoming and our citizens is to find a viable use for it. Bill Taliaferro and I worked for five years trying to get anyone who would listen to support a plan we developed that would have potentially put over 100,000 acres of range land into productive, irrigated agriculture production.
Most of our efforts fell on deaf ears, but one person who solidly supported us and our efforts was Harriet Hageman, who actually came and stood on the top of Fontenelle Reservoir with us and walked the ground we believed could be brought into production.
Unlike her election opponents, she offered us support and advice and committed to helping us to see that the Fontenelle proposal might become a reality.
Harriet has been and will continue to be a strong voice for Wyoming and for the protection of Wyoming’s water. Anyone who makes allegations to the contrary is not telling the truth.
Bryce Reece, Casper