DOI Leadership, Army Corps Of Engineers, Local Irrigators To Celebrate Lower Yellowstone Fish Bypass Channel & Reclamation's 120th Anniversary

Billings, MT - The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will co-host an official ribbon cutting ceremony for the completion of the Lower Yellowstone Intake Diversion Dam Fish Passage Project and celebration of Reclamation's 120th Anniversary, July 26, on Joe's Island near Glendive, MT.

Reclamation's Commissioner Camille Calimlim Touton, USACE's Northwestern Division Commander, Colonel Geoff Van Epps, and the USACE Omaha District Commander, Colonel Mark Himes, will attend the ceremony to commemorate Reclamation's 120 years of history and 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 for the endangered pallid sturgeon and continuing irrigation diversions to the Lower Yellowstone Project.

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 that was designed to address fish passage concerns associated with the intake diversion dam.

"We are excited to celebrate the success of this interagency project and recognize Reclamation's major contributions to reclaiming America's 17 western states over the last 120 years," Brent Esplin, Missouri Basin and Arkansas-Rio Grande-Texas Regional Director said. "In addition to bolstering conservation efforts of the prehistoric pallid sturgeon, Reclamation is committed to continuing the effective operation of the Lower Yellowstone Project for local irrigators who help feed the nation."

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 fish 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 fish passage and open approximately 165 river miles of potential spawning and larval drift habitat in the Yellowstone River.

"This is a momentous occasion more than ten years in the making," said Col. Geoff Van Epps, USACE Northwestern Division commander. "The collaboration on this project presented unique challenges and opportunities to meet conservation and recovery responsibilities under the Endangered Species Act while continuing to serve the needs of stakeholders that use the river. The professionalism and mutual respect of all involved provided a healthy, dynamic work climate in which to operate to achieve common goals and objectives."

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.


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