The Bureau of Reclamation will continue its 120th anniversary celebration with a groundbreaking ceremony for the completion of the Yellowstone Intake Diversion Dam Fish Passage Project on July 26, 2022. The Corps of Engineers of the US Army will co-host the groundbreaking ceremony. located on Joe’s Island near Glendive, Montana.
Tanya Trujillo, U.S. Department of the Interior Assistant Secretary for Water and Science, Camille Calimlim Touton, Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation, Col. Geoff Van Epps, Commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Northwest Division, and Col. Mark Himes, Omaha District Commander, will attend the commemoration ceremony The 120th Year of Rehabilitation Bringing Water to the West and celebrating the success of this fish bypass construction project of $44 million over three years. The success of the project is due, in part, to the joint efforts and contributions of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation to improve the fish passage structure for the endangered Pale Sturgeon and to other native species around the Lower Yellowstone Intake diversion dam. .
Construction of the Fish Bypass Canal began in April 2019 and was completed with the removal of the cofferdam on April 9, 2022. The 2.1-mile-long canal was constructed as part of the Fish Passage Project of the lower Yellowstone intake diversion dam which was designed to address fish passage issues associated with the diversion dam.
President Biden’s bipartisan Infrastructure Act calls for a $200 million investment in the National Fish Passage Program over the next five years to conserve fish habitat and advance projects like this.
“We are thrilled to celebrate the success of this interagency project and recognize Reclamation’s major contributions to reclaiming all 17 Western American states over the past 120 years,” said Brent Esplin, Missouri Basin Regional Director and of Arkansas-Rio Grande-Texas. “In addition to bolstering conservation efforts for the prehistoric pale sturgeon, Reclamation is committed to continuing the efficient operation of the Lower Yellowstone Project for local irrigators who help feed the nation.”
In 1990, the pallid sturgeon was listed as endangered by the US Fish and Wildlife Service under the Endangered Species Act. The US Army Corps of Engineers, US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Reclamation worked in partnership to determine the effects of the Lower Yellowstone project on endangered species. Two main problems have been identified; entrainment of fish into the main irrigation channel of the lower Yellowstone Irrigation District and failure of fish to successfully pass the intake diversion dam to upstream spawning grounds. A new screened channel head structure was completed in 2012 to address the fish entrainment issue. The new weir, in conjunction with the completed fish bypass channel, will provide passage for endangered fish and open approximately 165 river miles of potential spawning and larval drift habitat in the Yellowstone River.
Although this part of the project is complete, construction in the area is ongoing. The contractor, Ames Construction Inc., is still actively working on Joe’s Island to restore natural vegetation to construction roads. The contractor will rehabilitate sections of Route 551, located adjacent to State Highway 16, and Canal Road, both on the north side of the Yellowstone River in Intake, Montana. Joe’s Island is expected to remain closed until fall 2022, when all construction-related activities are complete.
“This is a momentous occasion that has been in the making for more than a decade,” said Colonel Geoff Van Epps, commander of the US Army Corps of Engineers, Northwestern Division. “Collaborating on this project has presented unique challenges and opportunities to meet conservation and recovery responsibilities under the Endangered Species Act while continuing to meet the needs of stakeholders who use the river. The professionalism and mutual respect of everyone involved has created a healthy and dynamic work environment in which to operate to achieve common goals and objectives.
The Lower Yellowstone Project is a 58,000 acre irrigation project located in eastern Montana and western North Dakota. The project is operated and maintained by the Lower Yellowstone Irrigation District Board of Control under contract with Reclamation. The project includes the intake diversion dam, a screened intake structure, 71 miles of main channel, 225 miles of laterals and 118 miles of drains, three pump stations on the main channel, four additional pumps on the Yellowstone River and an additional pump on the Missouri River.
Media representatives interested in attending the ceremony should RSVP to Brittany Jones at (406) 247-7611 or [email protected] by Friday, July 22. For media that cannot attend, photos, videos and a press release will be available. following the ceremony.