Community Hops in the River Following Willwood Dam Crisis

Months after a mud spill killed fish and dumped debris in the Shoshone River between Cody and Powell, there’s some good news.

A Wyoming Game and Fish Biologist said fewer fish were killed than they feared and people came together to clean up the river over the weekend.

Shortly after sunrise, the cars, boats and big equipment started rolling down the hill below the Willwood Dam.

The river had turned chocolate brown and was dotted with debris after the Willwood Irrigation District dropped the reservoir above for repairs last October.

The release from the dam killed fish; anglers and a homeowner complained in November, the Department of Environmental Quality issued a notice of violation to the US Bureau of Reclamation, which owns the dam and the Willwood Irrigation District.

Jason Burckhardt told News 13, “It was down about ten to twenty percent from the prior estimate. The good news is that there is fairly a good number of fish left in the river.”

On this day, all the parties came together including the Trout Unlimited volunteer who helped organize the effort said it wasn’t just anglers who came to clean up the river.

Dave Sweet commented, “This is a cooperative effort between game and fish, the Willwood Irrigation District, the DEQ and the Bureau of Reclamation. Everybody is cooperating on this effort today.”

Sweet expected fifty people to show up; at least 75 reported for duty, hit the water in their boats, and boots and picked up the trash.

Farmers left their work in the fields to bring the dump truck, and bulldozers to do the heavy lifting and by noon, the volunteers had filled the big truck to the top.

About a dozen boats brought the trash to a take-out point, where it was picked up and loaded by the irrigation district volunteers and then taken to the landfill.

Irrigation Manager, Todd Singbeil shared people were also working together behind the scenes.

Singeil, “Unfortunately it took this for everybody to come together. But all the meetings and stuff I’ve been in everybody’s coming together as a team. We all realize we have problems now and everybody’s helping.”

DEQ spokesman Keith Guille would not divulge the specifics of the negotiations, but he said talks on the settlement agreement are ongoing