New fish bypass channel opened on lower Yellowstone River

Billings Gazette

The lower Yellowstone River fish bypass channel near Glendive is filled with water creating a manmade route for boaters and fish around Intake Diversion Dam.

The three years of dirt work and $44 million in construction costs are designed to restore a route for endangered pallid sturgeon to swim around the dam so they can migrate farther upstream and hopefully successfully spawn. Other native fish species, such as paddlefish, will also benefit from the increased river access.

The 2.1-mile channel will provide access to another 165 miles of the Yellowstone River for potential spawning. The increased distance is believed to be important since pallid sturgeon larvae, when they hatch, drift downstream before they are able to swim. More distance to drift means the larvae may not end up in Lake Sakakawea where previously hatched larvae have died.

Construction on the bypass channel started in April 2019 and was completed with the removal of the cofferdams on April 9. The Lower Yellowstone Intake Diversion Dam Fish Passage Project, a joint federal project between USACE and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, also includes a new diversion structure to facilitate irrigation diversions to the Lower Yellowstone Project, which was completed in December 2021.

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