From Staff Reports
A failing diversion dam at the southeastern end of Grand Teton National Park is slated for removal in the spring, clearing the way for easier migration of cutthroat trout and other native fish species.
Park officials are seeking public comments as part of the initial scoping process for the removal of the Newbold Dam on the Gros Ventre River at Kelly, Wyo., according to information released by the park’s public affairs office.
The project, carried out in cooperation with the National Elk Refuge and Trout Unlimited is aimed at removing the dam before its expected failure, which park officials said is imminent.
“The Newbold dam impedes native fish passage, and in its current condition, will likely fail during spring runoff,” Grand Teton spokesman Jackie Skaggs said.
The National Park Service will analyze potential effects of the dam’s removal and will develop an environmental assessment if it is determined to be an historic resource.
The Newbold Dam is a diversion structure with headgates that supply water to surround lands. The Park Service acquired the dam, ditches and all associated water rights in 1949.
State and federal wildlife officials have identified the Newbold Dam as an impediment to natural movements of native cutthroat trout and non-game fish, particularly bluehead sucker, a state-listed sensitive species. Both species have declined in distribution and abundance across their range.
The dam is the only barrier to upstream migration between the Snake River and numerous miles of upstream Gros Ventre River and tributary habitat. Recent radio telemetry movement studies indicate that some adult trout are able to pass the low-head log and rock dam. But other fish are unable to cross the barrier.
Park officials said the dam could also pose a safety hazard to people fishing downstream if the structure were to fail.
Trout Unlimited proposes to raise funds and contract for the removal of the Newbold Dam during the spring of 2013 in partnership with Grand Teton National Park and the National Elk Refuge.
After removal, some bank restoration and revegetation would occur, including re-contouring the project access area.
Public comments on the project will be considered through January 11, 2013.
Comments may be submitted online or sent to: Grand Teton National Park; Attention: Carol Cunningham; P.O. Drawer 170; Moose, WY 83012.