New Fish Bypass Channel Open At Intake; Yellowstone River

Billings, MT - The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announces the completion of the Lower Yellowstone fish bypass channel project near Glendive water is flowing and the channel is navigable.  

The success of this, three-year, $44 million construction project was due in part to the joint coordination efforts and contributions of intergovernmental organization resources to help improve the passage structure for the endangered pallid sturgeon and other native species around this Intake diversion dam.

"The bypass channel supports the recovery of the Pallid Sturgeon and will allow passage at the Intake Dam and Irrigation Headworks Project on the Yellowstone River," Carlie L. Hively, P.E. Project Manager, Civil Works Branch, USACE, Omaha District, said. "It is exciting to see this project come to fruition; to arrive at a tangible result of years of hard work and partnering of multiple agencies for the benefit of the Pallid Sturgeon." 

Construction on the channel started in April 2019 and was recently completed with the removal of the cofferdams on April 9, 2022. The 2.1 mile long channel was constructed as part of the Lower Yellowstone Intake Diversion Dam Fish Passage Project, a joint federal project between USACE and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, that was designed to address fish passage concerns associated with the intake diversion dam. In addition, the project includes a new diversion structure to facilitate irrigation diversions to the Lower Yellowstone Project which was completed by USACE in Dec. 2021.

"The opening of the fish bypass channel is a great example of interagency partnership success," Ryan Newman, Reclamation's Montana Area Manager, said. "Since the early 2000s, Reclamation and USACE have been working to address passage and entrainment issues associated with the Lower Yellowstone Project. In addition to protecting pallid sturgeon, Reclamation is committed to continuing the viable and effective operation of the Lower Yellowstone Project for local irrigators."

In 1990, Pallid Sturgeons were listed as endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under the Endangered Species Act. USACE, the Wildlife Service, and Reclamation have been working in partnership to determine the effects of the Lower Yellowstone Project on the species. Two primary issues were identified, entrainment into the Lower Yellowstone main canal and lack of passage success over Intake Diversion Dam. A new screened headworks structure was completed in 2012 and addressed the canal entrainment issue. The new weir in conjunction with the bypass channel will provide passage and open approximately 165 river miles of potential spawning and larval drift habitat in the Yellowstone River. 

While this portion of the project is complete, construction in the area is ongoing. The contractor, Ames Construction Inc., is still actively working on Joe's Island to reclaim construction haul roads back to natural vegetation. The contractor will rehabilitate sections of Road 551, located off State Highway 16, and Canal Road, both on the north side of the Yellowstone River at Intake. Joe's Island is expected to remain closed for the Fall of 2022 when all construction related activities will be complete.

The Lower Yellowstone Project is a 58,000-acre irrigation project located in eastern Montana and western North Dakota. The project is operated and maintained by the Lower Yellowstone Irrigation District Board of Control under contract with Reclamation. The project includes the intake diversion dam, a screened headworks structure, 71 miles of main canal, 225 miles of laterals and 118 miles of drains, three pumping plants on the main canal, four supplemental pumps on the Yellowstone River and one supplemental pump on the Missouri River.

The Bureau of Reclamation is a federal agency under the U.S. Department of the Interior and is the nation's largest wholesale water supplier and second largest producer of hydroelectric power. Its facilities also provide substantial flood control, recreation opportunities, and environmental benefits. Visit our website at and follow us on Twitter @USBR.

For further information on the USACE, Omaha District's civil works projects visit:


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