The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is greenlighting a reclassification of about 80 percent of Wyoming’s recreational waterways. The move from a primary- to secondary-contact designation means that the streams in question are no longer recommended sites for fishing, swimming, or recreation in general. The change also means those waterways can now house levels of e. coli five time higher than what was allowed under their former classification.
According to a report from Wyoming DEQ on the changes,”Designating these waters for primary contact recreation results in unattainable expectations for those surface waters, unnecessarily stringent water quality criteria, and significant costs to both public and private entities to maintain and restore water quality to levels which do not correspond to the recreational uses and/or risks associated with people recreating in those waters.”
DEQ’s Lindsey Paterson defended the shift, saying the low-flow waters don’t make sense for recreation.
But considering all streams eventually flow into larger rivers and reservoirs, Western Watersheds Project is concerned about any downgrade that opens up bodies of water to higher levels of pollution, such as ag wastewater, over the long-term.
Wyoming citizens are encouraged to get in touch with DEQ if they disagree with a waterway’s rechristening.