Not much support for rebuilding the Teton Dam

Survey of Eastern Idaho residents shows them generally against rebuilding-

The deadly collapse of the Teton Dam east of Rexburg, Idaho, in June 1976 was one of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s worst moments. Conservationists had been fighting the dam as a waste of money and destruction of a beautiful fishing stream.  The canyon was also filled with wildlife, especially in the winter.

No one thought it would collapse, but the dam fell apart as soon as they filled it. Eleven people drowned and there was a billion dollars damage. Incredible as it my seem, some local irrigators started agitating to rebuild. It was an unpleasant joke, but most forgot about it until recently when some “penny pinching” members of the Idaho legislature starting saying it should be rebuilt, hopefully by Uncle Sucker.

American Rivers commissioned a poll in the area. They found a slight majority in favored of rebuilding the dam, but when presented with an alternative, greater efficiency of water use, the number were strongly against it.

Given the economic climate it is hard to see how Congress would appropriate a billion dollars to rebuild this structure. Rocky Barker has a full story on his blog in the Idaho Statesman.

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.

Teton-Dam-T-shirt1

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

Kim Trotter: Arguments for rebuilding Teton Dam don’t hold water

Some bad ideas just won’t die-

My first involvement in a conservation battle was trying to stop the building of the Teton Dam. We lost. It failed in June 1976 as it was filling for the first time. It killed eleven and cost a billion dollars in damage payouts. It would have been a money loser even if it had functioned. We had even told the judge the dam wouldn’t hold water. He laughed and said, “well it won’t drown out those elk then.” Eleven people died because of this fool and others.

Now rebuilding the dam at this porous site in the mouth of the trout filled and wildlife rich canyon has surfaced again. When it doesn’t work this time, it will be Idaho taxpayers picking up tab, not just Uncle Stupid.

Kim Trotter: Arguments for rebuilding Teton Dam don’t hold water. Opinion in the Idaho Statesman.

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Obama signs the omnibus public lands bill

Channels Bush and adds a presidential signing statement-
Updates to 4-2. State specific information added at end of post

There was much rejoicing as the President signed the Omnibus Public Lands Bill, usually and incorrectly called the giant new “wilderness bill.”

It does add 2-million acres to the National Wilderness Preservation System, but it does many other things, including protect 1.2 million acres of the Salt River Range, Wyoming Range, and Commissary Ridge areas in Western Wyoming from oil and gas leasing (and hence drilling). These areas will not be managed as Wilderness, although as a result of the bill, large parts of them will remain roadless. Drilling in these scenic, but unstable, wildlife rich areas would cause immense devastation. They still suffer from excessive livestock grazing.

The bill also designates new Wild and Scenic Rivers, including the first in dry Utah, where building dams on rivers has been a tradition. To win support for the bill, money was provided to study the rebuilding of the Teton Dam in Eastern Idaho, which failed catastrophically in 1976 when it was first being filled after a long fight with conservation groups who predicted it would not hold water. I should note that fighting this dam was my first major conservation issue.

There are 500,000 of new official Wilderness in Idaho and 316 miles of wild and scenic rivers  included in the larger Owyhee Canyonlands bill. This bill has sparked conflict among conservation groups, not because it designates Wilderness, but because it also releases to livestock development a number of roadless areas, plus other provisions. I have heard that the bill did undergo some improvement in the U.S. Senate when it was “cleaned up” by Committee Staff.

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