Press Statement on the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s Proposed Flow Reductions on the Snake River Below Jackson Lake Dam

May 10, 2023


Scott Bosse, Northern Rockies Regional Director, 406-570-0455

American Rivers is deeply concerned that the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is considering drastically reducing flows in the Snake River below Jackson Lake Dam in Grand Teton National Park beginning on May 10 and continuing over the next few months. Dropping flows to the minimum recommended level of 280 cubic feet per second or below when the river should be surging with snowmelt would disrupt native cutthroat trout during spawning season and deprive the river’s riparian cottonwood forest of the nourishing flood flows it needs to survive and thrive.

Congress recognized the Snake River below Jackson Lake Dam as a national treasure when it designated it as a Wild and Scenic River in 2009. The Oxbow Bend of the Snake River, one of the most photographed riverscapes in America due to its spectacular scenery and abundant wildlife, would bear the brunt of the diminished flows.

Scott Bosse, American Rivers’ Northern Rockies Regional Director, met with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s Upper Snake Area Manager, Lanie Paquin, and Assistant Area Manager, Mike Hilliard, in Boise, Idaho on Tuesday, May 9 to discuss the flow situation.

“I conveyed to the Bureau in no uncertain terms that the Snake River in Grand Teton National Park is a globally significant treasure, and reducing flows out of Jackson Lake Dam to a trickle when it should be at peak flood stage is totally unacceptable due to the profound negative ecological and economic impacts it would have,” Bosse said. “While the Bureau is maintaining flows at 280 cubic feet per second and has no immediate plans to reduce flows below that level, normal flood flows on that reach of the Snake River should be at least 10 times that level in order to sustain healthy fish and wildlife habitat. I appreciate that they listened to what I had to say, and they seem to understand the importance of the upper Snake River to Jackson Hole’s tourism-based economy.”

If the Bureau follows through with its plans to reduce flows out of Jackson Lake Dam, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department has agreed to use its storage rights in Palisades Reservoir to maintain a minimum flow of 280 cubic feet per second for as long as possible, but that would just be a temporary solution. American Rivers believes the best long-term solution this year and in future years is for the Bureau to provide spring flows that mimic a natural hydrograph in order to sustain a thriving native cutthroat trout fishery and healthy riparian vegetation downstream of Jackson Lake Dam.

About American Rivers

American Rivers is championing a national effort to protect and restore all rivers, from remote mountain streams to urban waterways. Healthy rivers provide people and nature with clean, abundant water and natural habitat. For 50 years, American Rivers staff, supporters, and partners have shared a common belief: Life Depends on Rivers. For more information, please visit AMERICANRIVERS.ORG