GREATER YELLOWSTONE COALITION
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GYC strongly supports legislation that is introduced in the U.S. Congress, calling for protections for East Rosebud Creek, a spectacular stream that rushes off the granite shoulders of the Beartooth Mountains through undulating ranchlands. East Rosebud is a stronghold for native cutthroat trout.

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Bear River: Dam threatens southeast Idaho’s hidden gem

Latest News: The proposal by a local canal company to dam the Bear River in the beautiful Oneida Narrows canyon continues to slowly move through the permitting process. After failing to secure a necessary water right from the State of Idaho, the project proponents have ignored this key obstacle and recently submitted an application for a license to construct a dam that would inundate 4.5 miles of river in the last free-flowing section of the Bear River. The Greater Yellowstone Coalition has been working with local landowners, farmers, sportsmen, boaters, and businesses for nearly 10 years to build a strong case for protecting the Bear River from what would be the fourth dam on this already fragmented river. In June of 2015, we expect the release of an environmental impact statement that will analyze the many harmful impacts of the proposed dam and provide the public an opportunity to weigh in with decision makers. We will be reaching out to our thousands of Greater Yellowstone supporters and river advocates to join us in opposing this damaging and unnecessary project.

Overview: The Bear River carves a path through eastern Idaho in the far southern reaches of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Originating high in the Uinta Mountains of northern Utah, the Bear River makes a short turn into Wyoming before arching through southeast Idaho and then back into Utah where it drains into the Great Salt Lake. The watershed supports the increasingly rare Bonneville cutthroat trout and is an important area for trumpeter swans, elk, mule deer, and moose. The Oneida Narrows section of the Bear River is a hidden gem, providing the last intact, free-flowing river section that exists between three previously constructed dams. The public lands found along the river in Oneida Narrows are administered by the Bureau of Land Management as a Research Natural Area and are extremely popular with local boaters, anglers, bird watchers, hikers, and campers. The proposed dam would eliminate this unique public resource, destroy Bonneville cutthroat trout habitat, and flood a remarkable canyon.

The Greater Yellowstone Coalition helped establish a settlement agreement in 2002 with Pacificorp, the company that owns and operates the existing Bear River dams. This landmark agreement created a $16 million mitigation fund that has been used to protect and acquire key private lands, restore degraded stream habitat, place fish screens on canals, and even decommission the aging Cove Dam near Grace, Idaho. The proposed Oneida Narrows dam now threatens to undermine much of the progress achieved for restoring Bonneville cutthroat trout habitat, improving habitat conditions, and expanding public access to the river.

Project Goals: Our immediate goal is for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to deny the permit application to construct the proposed Oneida Narrows Dam. Long-term, we will seek measures that permanently protect the Bear River from future dams and diversions that would impact the remarkable fish and wildlife resources found throughout this watershed. 

Image courtesy of Chris Hunt.

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OVERVIEW
  • The Bear River starts in northern Utah and flows into Wyoming and Idaho before emptying into the Great Salt Lake.
  • At 350 miles, the Bear is the largest and longest tributary of the Great Salt Lake.
  • The Bear once was a tributary of the Snake River, but lava flows diverted it to ancient Lake Bonneville.

Contact
Kathy Rinaldi, Idaho Conservation Coordinator

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