Teton makes "Most Endangered" list a year too late

American Rivers placed Idaho’s comeback river of the decade as its eighth Most Endangered Rivers for 2010.

The Teton, ravaged by the building and subsequent collapse of the Teton Dam in the 1970s, made the list because the Idaho Legislature approved $400,000 to study rebuilding the dam. But in reality the river has restored itself magnificently and become of the West’s best free-flowing trout streams.

The odds of Congress spending hundreds of millions, perhaps more than a billion to rebuild the Teton have always been low. But of course one of the reasons is that national groups like American Rivers make it clear they will fight a dam with all their treasure and time.

“Rebuilding an unsafe and unnecessary dam on the Teton River would be irresponsible, especially when more cost-effective and reliable water supply solutions exist,” said Rebecca Wodder, president of American Rivers.

American Rivers and its partners called on the state of Idaho and the Bureau of Reclamation to promote more cost-effective water supply solutions that focus on conservation and smarter water management.

And that’s exactly what happened…a month before this release came out.

The Bureau announced that it will work with Idaho to study water resources in the Henry's Fork River basin to improve water supplies in the Eastern Snake Plain aquifer and Upper Snake River basin which includes a study of rebuilding the Teton Dam. It made the announcement at a meeting of the Henry’s Fork Watershed Council in April.

Here’s how American Rivers makes it decision. Each year, its staff reviews nominations for the America’s Most Endangered Rivers report from river groups and concerned citizens across the country. Rivers are selected based upon the following criteria:

• A major decision the public can help influence in the coming year on the proposed action,

• The significance of the threat to human and natural communities,

• The degree to which the proposed action would exacerbate or alleviate stresses caused by climate change

The Teton decision appears like it would have been good a year ago. But now it comes a month late.

I suspect with a new study of storage on tributaries of the Boise River coming up for meetings later this month Idaho activists likely would have preferred the attention return to the Boise, which was previously listed for the threat of gold mining, which still exists.

Here’s the full list:

1. Upper Delaware River, PA, NY

2. Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, CA

3. Gauley River, WV

4. Little River, NC

5. Cedar River, IA
6. Upper Colorado River, CO

7. Chetco River, OR

8. Teton River, ID

9. Monongahela River, PA, WV

10. Coosa River, AL

Not quite...

The Henry’s Fork Special Study is a direct result of the conservation community pressuring the Bureau of Reclaimation to move away from simply studying re-building the Teton Dam. This designation will help keep the pressure on to study a broad range of possible options.

Pre-sale, daddy.

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