June 5th marked the 33rd anniversary of the collapse of the Teton Dam in Idaho. Following the recommendations in a 14-page EIS, the newly-built dam was filling for the first time. When it reached 270 feet in depth and was backing up a 17-mile-long reservoir it began to fail. Eleven people perished, 18,000 head of livestock died and 25,000 were left homeless. The flood caused more than 200 landslides in the downstream canyon and caused more than $2 billion in damage. The federal government paid out over $300 million in claims.
On June 9th, the state of Idaho inked an $800,000 deal with the Bureau of Reclamation to study ways of adding 100,000 acre-feet of storage to the Teton River basin. The study includes the ludicrous idea of rebuilding Teton Dam! The original dam was built on a highly-permeable volcanic ash flow. There’s no way it could not have failed and now they want to put it back in the same place! This idea is part of the legacy of Larry “Wide-Stance” Craig. After some 28 years in Congress, Craig had some lewd-conduct problems and he resigned and then he didn’t resign and then he just faded away. But, before he left he managed to shepard legislation through Congress for a study of how to bring more irrigation water to the Idaho desert.
The Bugle doesn’t believe for a minute that anyone could be so stupid or insensitive as to suggest that we stick a 305-foot-tall death trap back upstream of the same folks who lived through the collapse, but you have to be mentally deficient to even advance the possibility of such a project. It borders on government malfeasance. Sure southern Idaho could use more water. It’s a desert people! If this flood had come during the night, thousands more people would have died. A new dam would cost well over a billion dollars. If we have to build another dam, let’s think about it for a while first and let’s drop the idea of rebuilding the original, no matter what the engineers say.