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Grand Teton National Park joined with the sportsmen's group Trout Unlimited (TU) today to announce collaborative efforts underway on a stream restoration project for the Gros Ventre watershed. The project will remove an obsolete water diversion structure located near Kelly, Wyoming. The Newbold Dam-a low-head, log/rock structure-poses a significant barrier to fish passage in the Gros Ventre River, and is no longer needed for irrigation purposes. Dam removal will eliminate a safety risk for local residents and visitors who access the river for recreation at this location, and unlock more than 100 miles of stream habitat for spawning and sustaining trout.
Trout Unlimited secured funding for the project and will oversee the dam removal and site restoration. Work is expected to get under way the third week of March. This relatively early date will take advantage of low flow conditions, reduce in-stream turbidity, and minimize construction impacts. The project will also ensure that revegetation occurs as needed to restore the site after dam removal.
Other project partners include Orvis, Jackson Hole One-Fly Foundation, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Wyoming Game and Fish Department and the National Elk Refuge: the agency with jurisdiction over the Gros Ventre River's south bank and much of its stream bed. Steve Kallin, National Elk Refuge manager, applauded the restoration effort stating, "Thanks to outstanding partners, this excellent project will benefit cutthroat trout by removing a serious obstacle to seasonal fish movements."
The National Park Service, TU, and Wyoming Game and Fish Department 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 is 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 is a once-in-a-lifetime 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," said Toye. "We are pleased that Grand Teton National Park is 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 Grand Teton National Park 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. Trout Unlimited is a nonprofit 501(c) (3) corporation dedicated to protecting, reconnecting, restoring and sustaining native trout habitat. For more information about stream partnership opportunities with TU, contact Cory Toye at 307.332.7700x14, or by email at email@example.com.