WGF Pine Creek Direct Flow


New Fork



State law presently restricts ownership of all instream flow rights to the state. As a consequence the only option Mr. Hagenstein had for making sure his donated water right could remain a legitimate water right was to convey it to the state. As required by law, the Game and Fish Commission assumed the majority of expenses associated with the petition and served as the petitioner before the Board of Control. The fishery in Pine Creek is very important to the citizens of Pinedale and the state. This additional flow protection will add to this ongoing benefit. This action may have even broader benefits statewide considering that the Board of Control determination removes many of the uncertainties associated with changing an existing irrigation right to instream flow. As such, future efforts like this should be more straight-forward and easier.
Since filing for and securing instream flow water rights beginning in 2001, year round flow and fish numbers have improved markedly in Pine Creek and the New Fork. Over 3,700 brown trout and even higher numbers of rainbow trout have been counted per mile of stream. The local Trout Unlimited chapter has helped to increase numbers even more by restoring fish passage past irrigation diversions on the stream. This entire stream is covered by Area 4 fishing regulations. There is a limit of three trout per day or in possession, only one trout can exceed 16 inches, and no more than one cutthroat trout may exceed 12 inches. There are no special restrictions on the kind of tackle or bait that can be used here other than as provided by general statewide regulations.
From Fremont Dam down to confluence with the New Fork River.
The best public access to this stream is found right in the town of Pinedale. The stream flows under State Highway 191 just north of the business district in town. The city parks located immediately upstream and a short distance downstream from the bridge offer good opportunities to fish or just enjoy foot paths along this scenic stream and relaxing riparian environment.
Pine Creek and the New Fork River near Pinedale have seen their share of instream flow activity over the past decade or so. In 1989, the Game and Fish Commission filed an instream flow water right for the New Fork that generated considerable concern as well as support. Discussion was heated in 2001 when the first instream flow right was filed on Pine Creek at the request of the mayor and town council. In 2009 the commission was offered an irrigation storage right in Fremont Lake to use for instream flow in the Pine Creek and New Fork instream flow segments. Following extensive negotiations, several Board of Control meetings, and a public hearing, the Game and Fish Commission closed the deal on this additional source of water for maintaining flow in the streams. More recently, Pinedale was the scene of perhaps the most significant instream flow development yet when an irrigation right was offered by long-time rancher and resident Paul Hagenstein for change to an instream flow. Though the quantity of water was relatively small, the precedent set by the ensuing process was considerable. Since passage of instream flow legislation in 1986, private water right holders have had the legal mechanism to change an existing water right to instream flow. There have been numerous inquiries about making such a change, but not one person had followed through with their initial desires for one or more of several reasons. Some decisions have been affected by known facts that any such change would be permanent and require giving up ownership to the state. But unknowns such as how much of the right could be changed, where the water could be regulated, what time of year would water be allowed to stay in the creek, and whether a change could somehow be determined to injure another water right holder all factored in as well. With the final ruling at their November 2011 meeting, the Board of Control addressed and resolved all of these uncertainties, at least as they apply to Pine Creek and the New Fork River. Although the state wound up as the owner of this water right, the transaction still made sense to Mr. Hagenstein. In this situation, he was pursuing a complicated exchange of these relatively junior water rights for more senior ones that were no longer being used by a neighbor. When that exchange went through Mr. Hagenstein could no longer use his junior rights and he couldn’t find anyone else who needed them either. Current state law does not yet allow a private water right holder, like Mr. Hagenstein, to temporarily change an existing water right to instream flow and retain ownership and the option to use the original water right for some other purpose in the future, or leave water in the stream for fisheries purposes over an extended time, so keeping the water right was not an option. Mr. Hagenstein didn’t want his water right to just go away, so decided to turn this irrigation right into an instream flow right. Even though it’s a 1949 priority right, it has always been available, so this gift ensures this water will flow in these streams to benefit his friends, neighbors, and fish in perpetuity.