The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality held a public meeting in Cody Tuesday to update the public on the operation of the Willwood Dam and efforts to protect the Shoshone River fishery.
In October of 2016, the Willwood Dam, located upstream from Cody, released sediment into the Shoshone River. Due to a large amount of silt backed up behind the dam the initial sediment release happened when repairs to the gates had to be made. At the time, the public feared a massive fish die off. In the end, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department says the sediment release led to a five percent reduction of the fish population.
After an initial public outcry, the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality organized working groups to clean up the river directly below the dam and discuss how to prevent further sediment release.
During the meeting, experts shared the research they’ve been working on for the past year, including what type of sediment loads are passing through and how the dam could be managed differently.
Many in attendance voiced concerns that any changes could affect fishing and hunting.
But David Waterstreet, manager of the Watershed Protection Program for the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality said there are bigger issues to address.
“The fact that we’re already looking in a circumstance where we already have more sediment collecting behind the dam,” said Waterstreet. “That must be passed through the dam when we don't have a full understanding of how to do that.”
The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality will take public comments on the plan until December 22.