Concerns about fencing led the county to ask for more oversight over two SPET-approved wildlife crossings at the intersection of Highway 22 and Highway 390.
“We’re dropping $3 million of taxpayer money,” Commissioner Luther Propst said. “It seems to me that we’re obligated to take a look at what the fence is gonna look like.”
Voters approved $10 million in Specific Purpose Excise Tax, or SPET, funds for wildlife crossings in 2019. The two crossings in question would draw about $3 million from that pool. One would be just west of the 22-390 intersection and just east of Green Lane. The other would be just north of the intersection on 390.
The Wyoming Department of Transportation plans to fund two more — one east of the Snake River Bridge and one west — as it reconstructs the bridge and intersection in 2023.
At the heart of Tuesday’s conversation was a contract between WYDOT and the county that spells out how the state agency will plan and build the county-funded crossings.
The Teton County Board of County Commissioners had earlier asked for more clarity in the contract about how the county would be involved in approving designs and plans.
Language presented Tuesday specified that county involvement would be through a longstanding stakeholder group WYDOT had earlier assembled. Teton County Engineer Amy Ramage and Director of Public Works Heather Overholser are both members, as are representatives from WYDOT, Wyoming Game and Fish, the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, Friends of Pathways and the River Hollow Homeowners Association.
But that group is advisory and doesn’t have decision-making power.
In an email, Tim Young, executive director of Wyoming Pathways, asked for more county review because of concerns about the visual impact of wildlife fencing and pathway safety.
Fencing, as currently planned, would be 8 feet tall and stretch from Wenzel Lane to Pratt Road on Highway 22 and until just south of Raven Haven Road on Highway 390. It would be used to keep wildlife from crossing the road and funnel migrating ungulates to established crossings, as is done along S. Highway 89. Double-wide slotted cattle guards would be installed along openings in the fence to keep animals from walking or jumping across but allow pedestrians and motorists through.
Young was concerned that the slots could be too large, creating a risk of catching a foot or bike tire and hurting pedestrians, and that extending the fencing to Wenzel Lane would cause a visual blight.
Those concerns fell on sympathetic ears, but commissioners were mixed about how involved to get.
“When I drive down 89 south, I don’t think that the job that was done on fencing matches the scenery that we have in this community,” Propst said. “I think it’d be great to work something out so that we have final say.”
One option for doing so that was discussed Tuesday was the possibility of a phased approval process where commissioners would have a few chances to vet the project.
If WYDOT agrees to that arrangement, it could set up a process similar to the one for the Tribal Trail Connector, during which the board has multiple opportunities to vote yea or nay.
Commissioner Mark Newcomb supported the idea of county review but with a word of caution.
He pointed to a recommendation the majority of the Tribal Trail stakeholder group made to push pause on planning the connector while other design options along Highway 22 were ironed out. Commissioners didn’t advance that idea when they approved moving to the next phase of the project in early June.
“I want us to ensure that the stakeholder group is not getting the sense that we’re gonna come in and just completely rejigger everything that they’ve worked for a couple years on,” he said.