In a significant development that has implications for glamping operators throughout Wyoming, the state’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has greenlighted the construction of a wastewater facility at the Basecamp Teton WYSPV LLC’s glamping site, located just south of Teton Village.
This move comes amidst mounting environmental concerns and public scrutiny, particularly relating to its potential impact on Fish Creek, a local waterway.
The DEQ has clarified that the forthcoming septic system will be a sand mound pressure distribution system, designed to ensure a high level of treatment before wastewater exits the system.
In their assurance of this cutting-edge system, they stated, “Based on the design and proven performance of these types of systems, no adverse impacts to groundwater or surface water quality are anticipated.”
For private campground owners and operators of glamping resorts, this development provides a beacon of hope.
It suggests that the DEQ is willing to consider the needs of these businesses and does not inherently oppose the construction of such facilities.
If they can demonstrate adherence to rigorous environmental protection standards, they too may have the potential for approved expansions in the future. However, the importance of local community involvement and careful consideration of potential environmental impacts remains paramount.
The Basecamp Teton project, in particular, faced staunch opposition due to its proximity to Fish Creek. In November 2022, Protect Our Water Jackson Hole (POWJH), a local nonprofit organization, formally challenged the project’s wastewater permit, leading to a temporary halt in construction activities in February. This dispute highlights the critical role community organizations and environmental groups play in preserving local ecosystems.
Following the conflict, Basecamp resubmitted its application in April, prompting a period of public comment. The feedback led to consultations between DEQ and Basecamp, resulting in Basecamp incorporating additional water quality protection measures exceeding DEQ’s requirements into the facility’s design. These adjustments aimed to address public concerns and underscore the importance of water quality preservation to other glamping operators in the state.
Fish Creek, known to already have an impaired condition due to a high concentration of E. coli bacteria, could face further detriment due to the wastewater facility, as stated by POWJH.
Kevin Regan, POWJH Law and Policy advisor expressed their disappointment by stating, “Fish Creek is already listed as impaired for E. coli, and DEQ agrees that there are nutrient pollution issues in the watershed. A commercial-scale septic system only adds to the problem.”
Moreover, Basecamp’s use of state trust lands for construction sparked a contentious debate regarding land development regulation (LDR).
Last December, the State of Wyoming Board of Land Commissioners filed a complaint against Teton County regarding the county’s attempt to enforce county LDRs on state trust land development projects.
This ongoing dispute may potentially set a precedent for future private campground or glamping projects on similar land, thereby warranting careful observation by operators in the region.
While the authorization of the Basecamp wastewater facility offers a glimpse of hope for future private campground and glamping developments, it also underlines the critical importance of responsible, environmentally friendly practices in the industry.
This event serves as a pivotal reminder for all private campground owners and glamping operators to prioritize environmental stewardship and maintain open dialogues with local communities to ensure sustainable and beneficial growth in the sector.