The State of Wyoming and the Bureau of Reclamation have successfully reached an agreement on water management operations for the Upper Snake River Basin, ensuring the protection of fisheries below Jackson Lake Dam. In a joint effort to safeguard the ecosystem, Wyoming will supplement flows, maintaining releases at a minimum of 280 cubic feet per second. Wyoming commits to utilizing its water storage allocation, up to a maximum of 33,000-acre feet, with Reclamation pledging to cover any potential shortfalls if needed.
Recognizing the importance of long-term solutions, Reclamation has committed to collaborating with Wyoming to address concerns about maintaining adequate flows throughout the year and assessing the impact of Jackson Lake operations on Reclamation’s system-wide operations.
The preservation of the fishery below the dam, as well as the renowned Oxbow Bend, requires a minimum flow of 280 cfs. This critical habitat, spanning a 4.5-mile stretch of the river, supports Snake River cutthroat trout, shore birds, wildlife, and the bluehead sucker—a species in urgent need of conservation.
Game and Fish appreciates agreement
Wyoming Game and Fish Director Brian Nesvik expressed appreciation for the partnership, stating, “This stretch of river is iconic and a national treasure. I appreciate the Bureau of Reclamation’s efforts to work with us to find solutions to address our concerns. We look forward to working together to examine water operations and ensure water flows are maintained year-long.”
Any reduction in water flow below the prescribed operation in this area could harm the ecosystem and diminish angler opportunities. Grand Teton National Park Superintendent Chip Jenkins also commended the joint efforts, emphasizing the significance of the wild and scenic Snake River in providing stunning views, exceptional fishing and recreational opportunities, and excellent wildlife viewing.
Atypical snowpack conditions
Reclamation’s decision to reduce flows from Jackson Lake Dam was prompted by atypical snowpack conditions in the southern portions of the upper basin, aiming to store water and mitigate flood risks downstream. With Palisades Dam’s storage levels expected to reach flood management maximums soon and Jackson Lake currently below flood control space requirements, adapting to dynamic hydrologic conditions remains essential.
Reclamation Regional Director Jennifer Carrington affirmed their commitment to collaboration, stating, “Managing water in the West in light of changing hydrology requires adapting to dynamic water conditions. We appreciate our partners and remain committed to working with them on collaborative solutions as we attempt to balance the water needs of interests upstream and down.”