Johnson County Looks At Changing Lake DeSmet Lease, Decides To Keep Existing Agreement

Johnson County's Commissioners, at Tuesday's meeting, discussed the possibility of changing the tentative lease agreement between themselves and the Wyoming Game and Fish over water rights in Lake DeSmet.

The discussions were prompted by Deputy County Attorney Barry Crago, who had recently read the entire document for the first time, to clean up grammatical, spelling and date errors in the agreement.
In his reading of the agreement, his opinion was the county was receiving very little in return for the amount of liability they were assuming in the lease agreement.
Although Game and Fish is paying the county nearly $3 million over five years for the lease, he felt the county was assuming the lion's share of liability. Should anything go wrong at the lake, the county would not only assume costs of repairs or damage at the dam or reservoir, but would then have to pay back the Game and Fish for the unused years in the lease agreement.

After discussions between the commissioners, it was understood by them that they had, in fact, assumed the liability when Sheridan County chose the buyout of their interest in the lake.
The commissioners felt revenue from the Game and Fish lease, if used properly, could act as a “nest egg” of capital to pull from for repairs or other needs at the lake.

Paul Mavrakis, with the Game and Fish, was in attendance at the meeting and was asked what changes to the agreement might mean for the Game and Fish, and he feared it might take another year of negotiations and re-writes of the agreement before it could be resolved.

Commissioner Jim Hicks suggested Johnson County accept the lease, saying he felt more comfortable with the financial backing the lease would provide.
“I think if we continue to tweak this (agreement), we're likely to kill it,' he said.
Hicks then gave his recommendation to the commission.

The lease agreement was signed by Chair Delbert Eitel and will now be sent to the Wyoming Game and Fish where it will be taken to the Attorney General's Office for review.

It is expected to be approved by the Game and Fish at their meetings in Lander March 27th and 28th.