Idaho funds studies on replacing failed Teton Dam, expanding Minidoka

In an initiative to secure more reservoir storage in the state, the Idaho Legislature is funding studies of replacing the failed Teton Dam and enlarging the 27.7-MW Minidoka Dam. Lawmakers also urged state and federal officials to study those projects and at least three others.

The Legislature appropriated $400,000 to study the feasibility of replacing Teton Dam, which failed more than 30 years ago killing 11 people and causing millions of dollars in property damage along Idaho’s Teton River. Money for the studies is included in a water projects bill, S.B. 1511, signed by Idaho Gov. Butch Otter in early April.

Teton Dam, considered the last major dam built in the West, was completed by the Bureau of Reclamation in 1976 near Rexburg, Idaho. It failed June 5, 1976, on the first filling of the reservoir.

The bill also includes $1.4 million for the Idaho Water Resource Board to determine the feasibility of enlarging the Bureau of Reclamation’s 27.7-MW Minidoka Dam. Built in 1909, Minidoka is one of the first dam-building projects authorized by Congress and the third hydroelectric plant to be built by BuRec.

Legislators said past BuRec studies of enlarging Minidoka Dam estimate the project would provide an additional 40,000 to 50,000 acre-feet of water storage.

Resolution promotes Twin Springs, Galloway, Lost Valley dams

The Legislature also adopted a joint resolution, H.J.M. 8, calling for state and federal agencies to cooperate in feasibility studies of additional water storage projects, including Teton, Minidoka, and Twin Springs Dam, proposed for the Middle Fork of the Boise River.

�Studies have been undertaken, or have been proposed, which indicate that there are potential storage sites that would provide significant additional storage to residents of the state of Idaho, which can be built in a safe, environmental, and economical manner, and which will provide significant long-term benefits to the state of Idaho,� the resolution said.

The resolution said the agencies could study additional water projects and noted the Idaho Department of Water Resources had identified the proposed Galloway Dam on the Weiser River and enlargement of Lost Valley Dam, an irrigation storage project on Weiser River tributary Lost Creek, as potential projects.

�The Bureau of Reclamation is agreeable to the study of Minidoka Dam enlargement, but the opportunity to do so is limited by the fact that environmental compliance and design work are ready to commence on the replacement of the spillway at the Minidoka
Dam, making time of the essence for the storage enlargement study,� the resolution said. �… The United States Army Corps of Engineers, by virtue of the 2007 amendments to the federal Water Resource Development Act, has feasibility authority to study water supply and flood control on the Boise River, including Twin Springs Dam.�

Lawmakers sent the measure to Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, BuRec Commissioner Bob Johnson, the Corps of Engineers, Idaho’s congressional delegation, the governor, and members of the Idaho Water Resource Board.

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