Each year since 1986, American Rivers has released its America's Most Endangered Rivers report to spotlight the nation's ten most imperiled rivers. This year, the Teton River found itself at #8 on the Most Endangered Rivers List. Eastern Idaho's Teton River is one of the last remaining strongholds for Yellowstone cutthroat trout as well as an important winter refuge for elk, moose, and other wildlife-yet its spectacular canyon is threatened by a controversial proposal to rebuild Teton Dam, which collapsed in 1976, killing 11 people and causing more than $1 billion in damages. Rather than rebuilding an expensive and unnecessary dam, the state and the Bureau of Reclamation should promote more cost-effective, reliable water supply solutions that focus on conservation and smarter water management.
The Teton River and its tributaries are a key stronghold for native Yellowstone cutthroat trout— a candidate for protection under the Endangered Species Act— and attract anglers and whitewater boaters from across the region. In addition, the Teton Canyon provides critical winter range for thousands of mule deer, making it a prime big game hunting area.
Unfortunately, the Teton River is perhaps best known as the site of the 1976 Teton Dam failure, which claimed the lives of 11 people and caused more than $1 billion in property damage. This tragedy also virtually wiped out the wild trout fishery in the canyon. More than three decades later, the river has largely healed itself and regained its status as a prized stretch of water for anglers and whitewater boaters. This year, the state of Idaho and Bureau of Reclamation will begin a study of rebuilding Teton Dam at the original site, or constructing off-channel storage— either of these options would have devastating environmental impacts on the canyon. For this reason, American Rivers has identified the Teton River as one of America’s Most Endangered Rivers of 2010.
These rivers are irreplaceable ecological treasures and offer world-class recreational opportunities. As you move forward with the Henry's Fork Special Study, I urge the Bureau of Reclamation to reject reconstruction of the failed dam and focus on cost-effective water supply solutions that maintain the Teton River in its free-flowing condition and preserve its rich fish and wildlife resources.