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The Albany County Commission has approved an updated Casper Aquifer Protection Plan

 A man dressed in black pants and a white t-shirt stands next to a bubbling fountain of water. In the background are grasslands and a ranch house.
Casper Aquifer Protection Plan
An aggressive artesian flow from a high permeability member of the Casper Aquifer in the Laramie area

On July 5, the Albany County Commission updated the Casper Aquifer Protection Plan for the first time in over a decade. The city of Laramie had previously established a protection plan in 2008, and Albany County established a plan in 2011. While those plans were separate, this updated version was created jointly between the two governments.

The Casper Aquifer lies to the west of Laramie and provides more than 50 percent of the city’s drinking water. David Gertsch is the Albany County Planning Director. He said discussions of how to protect the aquifer began in the 1990s, before the first plans were implemented in the 2000s.

This new plan was commissioned by an intergovernmental committee between the Albany County Commission and the Laramie City Council. That committee drafted a memorandum of understanding, which appointed Gertsch and Darren Parkin, former Laramie Water Resource Administrator, co-leads on the project. Parkin and Gertsch then hired Stantec consulting to create the plan. After taking input from the community, the Planning and Zoning Commission, and the Environmental Advisory Committee, the plan was brought to the Albany County Commission and the Laramie City Council for approval.

Gertsch said he’s grateful for the collaboration that allowed this new plan to be created. “It's a pretty great thing that these two governing bodies are able to…really work together to come up with a plan that can be used by both city and county. We're all on the same page now. It's quite the amazing feat.”

That collaboration will keep the aquifer protected from several sources of possible contamination, such as runoff from I-80, pesticides, and sewage leakage from septic tanks.

The new plan contains the data on the aquifer and the surrounding area that’s been collected over the past decade. It also adjusts the protected area’s western boundary, which the city and county plans had placed at different locations. The new boundary is closer than the previous city boundary and further than the previous county boundary.

Gretsch says Stantec consultants created the new boundary based on well data from the State Engineer’s office. The boundary sits 75 feet out from the aquifer, which is regarded as enough space to guarantee its protection.

The new plan will not affect Albany County residents until the city council and county commission create regulations based on the plan’s data. That could take six to 12 months.

Those new regulations could include zoning changes and requirements for more advanced septic systems, which have additional installment and maintenance costs.

Suraj Singareddy is originally from Atlanta, GA, and is a rising junior at Yale University. He's currently an English major with a minor in computer science. He also helps run the Yale Daily News' podcast department, writes for a science-fiction magazine called Cortex, and likes to do different theatre-y stuff around campus. He also loves to read comics and graphic novels in his free time, and is always looking for book recommendations!
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