Thunder Basin Watershed Study
The Thunder Basin Grazing Association, on behalf of the landowner community and in cooperation with the Niobrara and Converse County Conservation Districts, requested that a Level I watershed study be completed for the Thunder Basin Phase II area. The sponsors and local representatives selected Olsson Associates to complete a comprehensive watershed study for the Lower Cheyenne River Watershed similar to the one that was completed to the north in the Upper Cheyenne Watershed (Olsson, 2009).
As with the previous watershed study, the study included the following:
- Identify opportunities for upland water development primarily for livestock/wildlife watering.
- Include irrigation infrastructure optimization evaluations.
- Identify opportunities for additional surface water storage sites.
The watershed study involved a multidisciplinary team of scientists and technical experts who inventoried and evaluated current watershed function and identified storage potential, irrigation conveyance conditions, upland water development opportunities, and current conditions of wetlands and riparian areas within the drainages. The team also developed a geomorphic classification of the watershed.
Further, Olsson reviewed, critically evaluated, and summarized the existing data to create databases, spreadsheets, graphs, and GIS maps for each of the scientific endeavors. The data gathered for the study was the foundation for the project since decisions on watershed management activities and improvements were based on the information gathered by the team.
Since the project was completed, over 70 projects have been constructed based on the watershedmanagement plan Olsson developed. In addition, according to Dave Pellatz, project sponsor for the Thunder Basin project and director of the Thunder Basin Grazing Association, adding the water projects has significantly improved the health of the ecosystem.
"The WWDC watershed projects have made a phenomenal change in the Thunder Basin area," Dave said. "Specifically, the pipeline taking water up both sides of Antelope Creek has really made a difference. The change hasn’t been along the lines of more cattle production, it has been to the ecosystem. There are riparian areas that have flourished and grasslands as well.”