SHERIDAN — Sheridan City Council considered its partnership with Whitney Benefits to irrigate community spaces throughout Sheridan last week in anticipation of expanding that partnership next month.
Whitney Benefits Board President Roy Garber briefed Sheridan City Council on the history of the foundation’s water agreement with the city and discussed what the expansion of that agreement could look like.
Whitney Benefits owns the property south of Sheridan College that the University of Wyoming is currently leasing as an agriculture research and extension center.
Though the ranch has its own water rights, Whitney Benefits purchased water in Park Reservoir in case the land eventually needed it. As irrigation technologies progressed, allowing the ranch to utilize its water rights more efficiently, the reserves Whitney purchased for the property became unnecessary.
When Whitney Benefits built Whitney Commons in Sheridan, it drew on those reserves to irrigate several of the city’s parks in addition to its new park.
Sheridan Utilities Director Dan Roberts said Whitney Benefits owns 171.6 acre-feet of water in Park Reservoir.
“That’s about 55 million gallons a year, if you look at it from that quantity,” Roberts said.
Whitney Benefits and Sheridan reached the first agreement to use that water to irrigate city community spaces in 2004. Currently, 29 city properties, totaling about 114 acres, rely on Whitney Benefits for their water supplies.
Those properties include the Sheridan County Fairgrounds, Thorne-Rider Park, Washington Park and Kendrick Park.
“Over that 15 years, the amount of water Whitney has made available to us (equals) more than 839 million gallons of water,” Roberts said. “That’s about three-quarters of the volume in our current Twin Lakes.”
The current agreement between Whitney and the city only utilizes 45% of water the foundation has available, Roberts said. According to that agreement, the unused water can be drawn on to irrigate new city properties so long as the city and Whitney Benefits agree.
Earlier this year, Garber said the city approached Whitney about adding Black Tooth Park to the properties that use Whitney water. Roberts said Black Tooth would be the largest of the city properties drawing on Whitney’s water reserves.
“That amount would increase the allotment by 10% — so it would go up from that 45% to 55%,” Roberts said.
Council will officially have to approve the amended agreement. Roberts said he anticipates bringing the matter before council at its first regular meeting in October at Sheridan City Hall.