SHERIDAN — The science and techniques of capturing clean water from springs in places like Nicaragua will soon be utilized at the Antelope Butte Mountain Recreation Area.
As the Antelope Butte Foundation works to refurbish the family oriented year-round mountain recreation area, they have the opportunity to modernize and improve their water supply. After recognizing the area would need to replace a water system that hasn’t been used since 2004, members evaluated what would be the most efficient solution to offering clean water to visitors, said Jack Fritz, an engineer from WWC Engineering and project manager of the first two phases of the project.
Tab Barker, founder and director of operations of the nonprofit Project Schoolhouse, brought his practices he’s honed — helping rural communities in Nicaragua develop communities by providing clean water and improving sanitation — back to his home in Wyoming when he heard Antelope Butte needed help.
“The terrains of the Bighorns and Nicaragua are very similar and so when I was asked about the project I was pretty eager to join in,” Barker said.
The water system used is a spring-fed gravity flow water system. Construction will consist of tapping into springs, sending water to a holding tank that pressures the system to flow downhill to homes in Nicaragua and the future lodge at Antelope Butte.
“Truly it’s been a really cool experience to be a part of because I never get to work in Wyoming,” Barker said. “It feels like Project Schoolhouse was able to give back locally, which isn’t an opportunity we have very often.”
The project started in March 2018 where they submitted a proposal to the Antelope Butte Foundation to do a conceptual design where they could analyze what size the water system needed to be based on the number of skiers, employees, meals and more, Fritz said.
WWC donated the work of phase 1, which consisted of accessing permits with the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to look at what treatments would be needed since the water system has been inactive for 15 years. The U.S. Forest Service had to authorize all upgrades and the Wyoming DEQ had to permit the construction of the new system.
Antelope Butte activated its ski lifts for the first time in 14 years and are currently remodeling the lodge and water system. But that’s not the only thing foundation members hope to develop in the near future.
“Our mission is to get youth and beginners involved in safe mountain recreation, but of course with youth comes grown-ups and other folks, so we want it to be a place for everybody,” said Mark Weitz, a founding board member of the Antelope Butte Foundation.
Construction of the water system will commence this fall.