Sheridan County's Commissioners voted this morning to allow Johnson County to purchase Sheridan County's interests in Lake DeSmet water rights and management, thereby dissolving the Lake DeSmet Counties Coalition.
The commissioners voted unanimously to sell Sheridan County's interests in the lake for half a million dollars, to be paid by Johnson County at the rate of $100,000 per year for five years. The agreement stipulates that Johnson County would have to endorse a lease with the Game and Fish Department and higher state authorities must agree with the action taken as well.
The commissioners cast their vote in spite of numerous reservations expressed by members of the LDCC and Powder River Basin Resource Council. The main grievances addressed to the commissioners dealt with vague language in the agreement, leading some parties to believe irrigation water rights were not adequately protected. Dave Garber, LDCC chair, is definitely uneasy about Johnson County's unmediated control of the lake.
Each commissioner agreed the board acted in the best interests of Sheridan County, which is currently footing the bill for maintainence of the lake and gaining no revenue in exchange. After it became apparent weeks ago there would be no compromise with Johnson County, relinquishing assets and liabilities in the lake seemed to be the only way to move forward. Commissioner, Tom Ringley politely acknowledged concerns brought forward, but asserted he's ready to wash his hands of the issue.
Edith Johnson-Lameres, administrator for the LDCC, communicated to the commissioners she feels Sheridan County is liquidating a long-term investment to meet a short-term goal.
The commissioners agreed they would submit a letter to Johnson County expressing their concerns regarding future management of the lake.
All parties involved in current Lake DeSmet negotiations are meeting the Game and Fish Department in Rock Springs next week to negotiate the water lease.