Wednesday, Mar 27, 2013
Grand Teton National Park joined with the sportsmen’s group Trout Unlimited (TU) to remove an obsolete water diversion structure located near Kelly, Wyoming. The Newbold Dam, a low-head, log/rock structure, posed a significant barrier to fish passage in the Gros Ventre River and was no longer needed for irrigation purposes.
The dam’s removal unlocked more than 100 miles of stream habitat for spawning and sustaining trout and eliminated a safety risk for local residents and visitors who access the river for recreation.
Trout Unlimited secured funding for the project and contracted for its removal, which took place on March 18 and 19, 2013. TU will also do site restoration and help Grand Teton with streamside revegetation as conditions allow. Other project partners included Orvis, Jackson Hole One-Fly Foundation, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) and National Elk Refuge.
The NPS, TU, and WGFD all identified the dam as an impediment to natural movements of native Snake River fine-spotted cutthroat trout and non-game fish, particularly bluehead sucker—a state-listed sensitive species. Both fish species have declined in distribution and abundance across their range. The dam was the only barrier to fish migration between the Snake River, about 8 miles downstream, and numerous miles of high-quality riparian habitat on the upper Gros Ventre.
“This was a rare opportunity to remove a significant barrier on the Gros Ventre River and make it easier for trout and native fish to access upstream habitat,” said Cory Toye, director of TU’s Wyoming Water Project. “These projects provide win-win solutions for all stakeholders, and we’re pleased that Grand Teton National Park was eager to participate in watershed-scale efforts to improve native fish habitat. They’ve been a great partner and this is conservation work with lasting impact.”
“We appreciate the partnership we’ve forged with Trout Unlimited,” said Superintendent Mary Gibson Scott. “With TU’s assistance, we’ve made some real and lasting improvements for native fish migration and habitat restoration on Snake River tributaries located throughout Grand Teton.”
The Newbold Dam removal comes on the heels of a similar TU/Grand Teton National Park collaboration on Spread Creek, another principal tributary of the Snake River. In 2010, TU worked with Grand Teton to remove the crumbling, concrete Spread Creek Dam and unlock more than 50 miles of upstream trout habitat. In recent years, TU has spearheaded several other projects throughout Wyoming to improve fish passage and habitat by modernizing irrigation infrastructures for various landowners.