2020 ANNUAL REPORT
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Raising Awareness: Water Quality
Invisible Rivers Campaign
E. coli Advisories
WILD WALLS: Public Artwork Collaboration
LETTER FROM THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR In 2020, we successfully completed the transition from Friends of Fish Creek to Protect Our Water Jackson Hole (POWJH) with the intent to serve as powerful advocate for reducing nutrient pollution and protecting water quality across all of Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Although reducing nutrients from all sources is important, it has been shown that improving wastewater treatment is the key to significantly reducing nutrient pollution and can dramatically return bodies of water to health. Over the last year, POWJH’s primary focus has been to fundamentally change the way that Teton County, Wyoming manages wastewater in the sensitive watersheds of Jackson Hole. To accomplish this, we focused on three areas to have the most immediate impact: • Educating the community on the negative impacts of poor wastewater management and building public support for improving wastewater treatment in Teton County. • Proposing and providing matching funding for the development of a county-wide comprehensive wastewater plan for Teton County. • Strengthening the Teton County’s regulations for septic systems through public comment on a planned revision of the regulations. Despite the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, POWJH has been successful in achieving these important short term goals and we along with Teton County government have taken the important first steps in achieving meaningful protections for water quality that will preserve our most valuable asset, clean water.
Dan Leemon Executive Director
ABOUT US BOARD LIST Brad Nielson___________ Bob Peters_____________ Bob Paulson____________ Ken Taylor _____________ Les Gibson ____________ Reynolds Pomeroy______ Fred Staehr____________ John Culbertson________ Kristin Revill___________ Perk Perkins___________ Aaron Pruzan___________ Kerri Ratcliffe__________
President, Director Vice President, Director Secretary/Treasurer, Director Director Director Director Director Director Director Director Director Director
STAFF LIST Dan Leemon___________ Executive Director Wendy Hagedorn_______ Outreach & Marketing Director
MISSION TO SERVE AS A POWERFUL ADVOCATE FOR REDUCING NUTRIENT POLLUTION AND PROTECTING WATER QUALITY IN JACKSON HOLE, WYOMING, NOW, AND FOR THE FUTURE.
2020 WASTEWATER PLANNING WORK HIGHLIGHTS
Submitted “A Proposal for Philanthropic Support for Comprehensive Wastewater Master Planning in Teton County, Wyoming” to the Teton County Commissioners for inclusion in the FY2021 budget.
Initiated a Change.org petition in support of our wastewater planning proposal that generated nearly 2000 signatures.
Partnered with Wyoming Outdoor Council to submit extensive public comment on revised Teton County Septic System Regulations based on significant research and Environmental Protection Agency guidance for protecting ground and surface waters.
Submitted a modified Wastewater Planning Proposal to the Teton County Commissioners that included funding from the Teton Conservation District to begin the wastewater planning process immediately.
SEPTIC SYSTEM REGULATIONS In 2018, the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality asked Teton County to update its regulations for small, onsite wastewater treatment facilities (septic systems). POWJH saw this as an immediate opportunity to strengthen rules to protect sensitive watersheds, such as Fish Creek. With the Wyoming Outdoor Council (WOC) assistance, POWJH completed significant research on regulations designed to protect water quality and reduce nutrient pollution. In April of 2020, POWJH and WOC submitted extensive public comments on revised rules based on Environmental Protection Agency guidance for protecting ground and surface waters. We look forward to the first draft of the revised regulations to be released in the spring of 2021 and will continue taking an active role in improving rules that protect our water quality. 07
Teton County Commissioners approved first year funding to begin the comprehensive wastewater planning process.
Updates to the 2012 Comp Plan approved with emphasis on water quality. POWJH led the effort to include language requiring a wastewater management plan.
COMP PLAN UPDATES Teton County’s first comprehensive land-use plan in 1978 recognized the threat that mismanaged wastewater and poorly functioning septic systems posed to our valley’s water. A related study conducted at that time identified high groundwater and coarse soils in many areas of the county as incompatible with septic systems leading to contaminated drinking water wells. Water quality protections included in the 1978 plan were removed in the 1994 rewrite, leaving groundwater quality vulnerable to pollution from septic systems and other sources. Decades later, the critical need to protect our water resources was mostly absent from our current comp plan. This year, POWJH spearheaded the effort to improve water quality protections in the 2012 Teton County Comprehensive Plan updates. The result was the inclusion of language that broadened the scope of a strategy calling for a “water quality enhancement plan” to include a wastewater management plan.
Leading up to the local 2020 election, Protect Our Water Jackson Hole talked with candidates about how they planned to prioritize water quality, alongside other community needs, once they are in office. POWJH compiled the candidate’s responses in videos to help educate the voters on the topic and invited every candidate appearing on the local ballot to speak. The campaign featuring candidate responses was widely circulated and viewed, garnering 2,222 unique website views for protectourwaterjh.org, a total of 14,666 video views and over 30K Instagram and 74K Facebook impressions. Beyond this, the biggest success of the campaign was to elevate the issue of local water quality to one of the top community issues, with all candidates incorporating water quality protections into their platforms and campaign talking points.
We all know these issues, housing/transportation, protection of our environment & wildlife, and the youth. Those are the three things I began running on. In the last several months I think our entire community has come around to understanding that water might need to be placed on the top. If we don’t have clean drinking water, I’m not sure what else counts more than that. Jim Rooks, Candidate for Town Council
ELECTION SPOTLIGHT ON LOCAL WATER QUALITY As an advocate for reducing nutrient pollution to our local waterways, Protect Our Water JH is asking local candidates what protecting our water means to them. Hear directly from all the candidates for town council, mayor and county commissioner at powjh.org/vote
Local candidates you'll see on the November ballot for town council, county commissioner and mayor.
Learn how local candidates are prioritizing water quality at
WILD WALLS 11
WILD WALLS OUTREACH POWJH partnered with Jackson Hole Public Art for an outreach and education project during the summer called WILD WALLS – a series of murals around town focusing on local water quality issues. The cornerstone of the project is a permanent mural at the Snake River Brewery. Also, there were nine temporary murals throughout downtown Jackson on display from late June through September and three murals at Snake River access locations. The WILD WALLS murals are paired with Augmented Reality (AR) animated features activated via a smartphone app that makes them come to life! The AR promotes a greater understanding of the water quality issues facing our community and offers proactive conservation and call-to-action solutions. The AR animations received 5,200 views during the duration of the display.
Screenshots of Augmented Reality animation as viewed via the smartphone app Precipitation replenishes the aquifer
Nitrates move easily through rocky soil and can pollute groundwater
You can view a walking tour video of this public art, science, and technology experience at powjh.org/wild-walls
Call-to-action: Test your well 12
INVISIBLE RIVERS CAMPAIGN POWJH launched an outreach and education campaign to inform the public about the importance of reducing nutrient pollution in the entire Snake River ecosystem, not only for water quality but also for all life forms that depend on it. Recent scientific research shows that interaction between surface water and groundwater is fundamental to the health of gravel-bed river ecosystems. Human activities contribute to water pollution that affects the underground floodplain, the foundation of a healthy river “immune system”. This campaign was widely circulated and viewed through newspaper ads and digital ads garnering 145K impressions, over 158K Facebook and Instagram impressions, and 1,920 website sessions.
MOST OF THE WATER IN THE SNAKE RIVER IS NOT IN THE RIVER —
IT’S IN THE GRAVEL.
A gravel-bed river doesn’t just flow down the channel. It flows over and through the entire floodplain system, from valley wall to valley wall. Interaction between surface water in the river and groundwater throughout the valley is fundamental to the health of the Snake River ecosystem. LEARN MORE ABOUT INVISIBLE RIVERS
MOST OF THE WATER IN THE SNAKE RIVER IS NOT IN THE RIVER —
IT’S IN THE GRAVEL.
PHOTO: ED COYLE
ER RIV E AK SN
AQ ER D T N A OU DW R N G OU R ER R D E G UN R QUIF E A EP DE
Our waterways are the foundation of a healthy ecosystem Most of the water in the Snake River is not in the visible river channel – it’s in the gravel, from valley wall to valley wall. Gravel-bed river floodplains support an extraordinary biodiversity of life. Clean water is the foundation of this ecosystem. The species that live there have been disproportionately affected by human infrastructure and activities. Protecting our water is vital to preserving a healthy ecosystem – from Bugs to Bears.
E. COLI ADVISORIES In July of 2020, POWJH successfully petitioned the Teton District Board of Health to take action and install warning signs alerting float-tubers, swimmers, and anglers of potential health risks associated with in-stream recreation due to elevated E. coli levels in all of Fish Creek and portions of Flat Creek. Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality has known for several years that the creeks have, at times, contained more E. coli than is considered safe for swimming and other primary contact recreation. The fecal bacteria’s noncompliant concentrations were the cause for “impaired” listings in January of 2020, but no action had been taken to warn users of the potentially harmful bacteria. In 2021, a University of Wyoming research study will assess E. coli concentrations and sources.
A healthy stream environment
Nutrient Impacted Stream
THE ROAD AHEAD: 2021 Thank you for your ongoing support. We have taken some essential steps to enhance and preserve our vital water resources over the last year. POWJH is excited to build on our successes in 2021. We will continue to actively engage with the Town and County government to prioritize the completion and implementation of a comprehensive water quality management plan, including a county-wide wastewater management plan. We will be active participants in the public process to update Teton County’s septic system regulations. We are excited to partner with the Community Foundation of Jackson Hole to offer an incentive program for the use of advanced treatment septic systems in sensitive watersheds. We will continue to monitor new development applications to ensure that water quality is one of the primary considerations as our community grows. We will continue to educate the community with innovative programs like our partnership with Jackson Hole Public Art for WILD WALLS. Above all, we will continue to look for every opportunity to protect the surface waters we love to recreate in and the drinking water that all life depends on. The future of our water resources is going to be determined by the decision we make right now. If we want healthy rivers and streams that can resist a changing climate’s adverse effects, we need to protect them now. If we want a future where everyone has access to clean drinking water, we need to protect our sole source aquifer now. We are committed to seeing this through. Now, more than ever, we need your help. 16
DONOR PROFILE First, we want to say THANK YOU. Without your support, we would never have accomplished as much as we have to bring Jackson Hole’s water quality issues to the forefront of the community’s conscience. In fact, without the work of POWJH, very little would be happening to address the warning signs of water pollution that are all around us. Based in part on your previous contributions, we have been able to educate the community and local elected officials about the causes of nutrient pollution and, more importantly, how to solve them. Second, we hope that you will consider continuing to support POWJH as we work to implement science-based and collaborative solutions to our most pressing water quality problems. We simply can’t do it without you. Your generous support will make a real, lasting impact on water quality in Teton County, Wyoming. Visit our website to make a tax-deductible contribution: POWJH.org or send to: P.O. Box 1014, Wilson, WY 83014 Lastly, contact your local elected officials – let them know that protecting our water quality is essential to you and should be a top priority! Urge them to create a countywide Comprehensive Wastewater Management Plan and complete the overdue updates to the Teton County Septic System Regulations.
WHERE IS MY DONATION GOING? FUNDRAISING:
Education & Outreach (Including Best Management Practices): 49%
Collaborative Solutions: 17%
Research & Monitoring: 34%
ProtectOurWaterJH.org | 307-413-5264 | P.O. Box 1014, Wilson, WY 83014
This report outlines our biggest achievements in 2020 as well our vision for a healthier Snake River Ecosystem.