CHEYENNE - For over five years, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department has been working with the Lake DeSmet Counties Coalition (LDCC) to work out a mutually beneficial agreement that secures a portion of Lake DeSmet storage water for recreation and helps fund future LDCC operations.
The motivation of the Game and Fish to pursue the lease is to secure a portion of Lake DeSmet storage to maintain boating and angling recreation for the Wyoming public.
Lake DeSmet is by far the most popular trout fishery in northeast Wyoming with an estimated 35,000 angler days annually. Estimates from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service put the value of the fishing day at $71 so the Lake DeSmet fishery brings in approximately $2.5million dollars to the local economies. In addition, the Game and Fish has spent more than $2 million in public funds in access areas at Lake DeSmet including boat ramps, outhouses, docks, and land. The Game and Fish also stocks the reservoir with150,000 trout every year at the cost of about $300,000.
“These significant public investments at LakeDeSmet warrant these efforts for long term protection of the recreation value for the public” says Sheridan Region Fisheries Supervisor Paul Mavrakis.
At the July Game and Fish Commission meeting, the Commission reaffirmed an interest to pursue a long term lease with the LDCC. At the request of Johnson County commissioners, the Commission agreed to eliminate any reference to a minimum pool elevation and clarify some ambiguous language about control of water rights. The Commission then directed the Game and Fish to stay with the terms of 99 years with a buyback option at 50 years and expressed optimism that an agreement can be reached by the September 14-15 Commission meeting in Casper. If agreement cannot be reached, the commission intends to reallocate the funds to other boating access projects elsewhere in Wyoming. No general tax monies will be used for this lease.
Chief of Fisheries Mark Fowden and Mavrakis appeared at the request of the Johnson County Commission meeting on Aug. 7, to answer questions. The Johnson County Commission may take action on the proposed lease at their next scheduled meeting on Aug. 21. Questions about the proposed lease should be directed to Mavrakis at the Sheridan Game and Fish Office (307) 672-7418.
(Contact: Paul Mavrakis (307) 672-7418)