Teton Dam now less likely to be rebuilt

Like the undead, there was movement to rebuild the disastrous Teton Dam in Eastern Idaho. Maybe now it will stop-

Idaho Department of Water Resources director, a big supporter of rebuilding the Teton Dam, retires. Salt Lake Tribune

If you are not old enough to have heard of, or remember the Teton Dam, here is the Wikipedia article.

A few years after the Teton Dam collapsed this sarcastic t-shirt made the rounds in Eastern Idaho as some fools started talking about rebuilding it. As you can see, I wore mine quite a bit. Ralph Maughan







  1. Tom Page Avatar
    Tom Page

    Maybe. Having liberal views on water politics is not a plus for those applying to be the new IDWR director…

  2. pointswest Avatar


    It is very unlikely the Teton Dam will be rebuilt. There is a very good alternative that is far more likely to gain approval. I call it Teton Lake (it was my idea).

    This is a rendering of both reservior concepts for comparison.


    The $800,000 study that is just getting underway will look at both concepts and any others they can come up with. Most know that the Teton Dam is a hard sell. I have been involved with this for awhile.

    Some want both reservoirs built. I am against the old Teton Dam but the Teton Lake is a good idea. It would be built on land that is marginal dry farm land, most of which is sucking Fed tax dollars in the form of CRP (Conservation Reserve Program). It will give Idaho the needed water storage an yet preserve the Teton River and Teton Canyon. It would probably add habbitat to the area…especially if some of the nearby dryfarmers get water rights.

    It would probaly also improve late summer flows in Fall River. The irrigaters have almost been sucking Fall River dry in recent years. They could switch to water stored in a Teton Lake. There is even the posibility of a gravity feed irrigation system for the whole area that would use the lake as a hub. This would conserve water and the even lower Teton River (north and south forks) might be restored as viable fisheries….maybe. The lower Teton is only a faint dream at this point.

  3. pointswest Avatar

    The BLM is trying to designate parts of the South Fork of the Snake and The Teton as Wild River.

    It some of the irrigators were taken of Fall River, maybe it to could be desinated. Fall River is probably the best fishery in the area and it seems like no one cares about it.
    IDAHO FALLS — Are three reaches of the South Fork of the Snake River and four reaches of the Teton River suitable to be designated as scenic or recreational rivers under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act?
    That is the question under consideration now by the Bureau of Land Management’s Upper Snake Field Office as part of a review of its land-use management direction.
    The office has been seeking public comment on the rivers for two years under two federal mandates.
    And a couple of developments in the water world the past year have complicated the process a bit.
    “Our timing was tough,” says Monica Zimmerman, an outdoor recreation planner working on the issue. “This spring Congress designated the Snake River headwaters as a scenic river.”
    That designation has raised concerns related to the possibilities of the South Fork and the Teton River segments being recommended for similar designation, she says. The other consideration is a study under way by the Bureau of Reclamation and Idaho Water Resources Department on storage water options on the Teton River in the Henry’s Fork basin.
    The state water agency is interested in protecting its ability to pursue water storage options on the Teton, says Hal Anderson, administrator of the agency’s Planning & Technical Services Division.
    “Because we know of the state’s interest in that, one of the alternatives we will consider will say the Teton River is not suitable (for designation),” Zimmerman says.
    Right now the BLM is considering comments it has received from the public on the suitability of the river stretches for designation.
    “We’re getting a wide variety of comments,” she says.
    Staffers will be using those comments to help draft alternatives for action in a draft environmental impact statement, which should be ready for release to the public for another stream of comment by September. The agency’s determination on rivers’ suitability for protection will be included in the draft.
    Some time before 2012, the final EIS should be done.
    Two federal mandates started the process of the BLM reviewing the eligibility of the rivers.
    The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act itself requires all federal agencies to consider whether rivers might qualify for designation under the act as the agencies make or revise their management plans. (The Idaho Falls office of BLM is in the middle of a multiyear process of updating four of its management plans from the 1980s into one management plan.)
    And the BLM’s own rules mandate rivers be inventoried and studied for suitability to be named as wild, scenic or recreational rivers.
    Zimmerman says her agency began in 2005 to determine how many of the 455 miles of streams within their management area would be eligible to be considered for inclusion in the National Wild and Scenic Rivers system.
    Their work showed these streams met eligibility requirements: Three segments of the South Fork of the Snake, four segments of the Teton River and short sections of Badger, Bitch and Canyon creeks, all Teton tributaries.
    Most of the sections qualify for designation as scenic, with a couple of sections fit for recreation river designation. None of the rivers were seen as eligible as wild rivers, the most pristine, undeveloped designation.
    Scenic means the rivers or sections of rivers are free of impoundments with shorelines or watersheds still largely primitive and shorelines largely undeveloped but accessible in places by roads.
    Recreational rivers are those that are readily accessible by roads, that may have some development along their shorelines and may have undergone some impoundment or diversion in the past.
    If, at the end of the process, the BLM finds any of the sections suitable under act in any of those categories, the agency makes recommendations to Congress.
    Only Congress can designate a stream as wild, scenic or recreational and include it in the national system.
    The effect of the designation is to protect the status quo of the stream.

    Being considered
    The Teton River from the Felt Power Plant to Bitch Creek, eligible for scenic (1.8 miles) From Bitch Creek to Spring Hollow, scenic (3.5 miles) From Spring Hollow to Canyon Creek, scenic (7.2 miles) From Canyon Creek to Dam site, recreational (6.26 miles)
    Badger Creek, scenic (1.2 miles) Bitch Creek, scenic (2.7 miles) Canyon Creek, scenic (3.2 miles)
    The South Fork of the Snake River from Palisades Reservoir to Conant Valley Powerline, recreational (15 miles) From Conant Valley Powerline to Riley Diversion, scenic (23 miles) From Riley Diversion to Henry’s Fork Confluence, recreational (23 miles)


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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Ralph Maughan