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The Weekly News Source for Wyoming's Ranchers, Farmers and AgriBusiness Community

Working Together to Protect the Shoshone River

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Published on Jan. 11, 2020

By Jeremiah Vardiman, UW Extension Educator

            This past fall, the Willwood Working Group #3 accomplished a big milestone by completing a watershed plan for the Shoshone River upstream of Willwood Dam. This effort has taken over two years and an estimated 1,000 hours of working group members’ time to reach completion. 

            Since this task has been accomplished, the group is now focusing on how to address concerns found within the plan.

            If you remember, there were three working groups established to address the sediment release from the Willwood Dam in the fall of 2016. The first working group was tasked with restoring the aquatic and riparian environment of the Shoshone River below the dam through removal of accumulated sediment and solid waste. This workgroup completed its tasks in the spring of 2017.

            The second working group is tasked with developing long term management of the sediment above the Willwood Dam and evaluation of water quality standards. This working group is using high-tech equipment to monitor sediment loads above and below the Willwood Dam. Working Group #2’s efforts are ongoing.

            The third working group was tasked with addressing sediment sources entering the Shoshone River upstream of the Willwood Dam. This group consists of members from Willwood Irrigation District, local agricultural producers, Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, Wyoming Game and Fish Department, Bureau of Land Management, Powell Clarks Fork Conservation District, Cody Conservation District, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts, East Yellowstone Chapter of Trout Unlimited, University of Wyoming Extension and the Nature Conservancy. 

            To date, the main focus of this working group has been writing a detailed watershed plan for the Shoshone River between Buffalo Bill Dam and Willwood Dam. This watershed plan identifies potential sediment sources to the Shoshone River and its tributaries, prioritizes the impact of those potential sediment sources, and identifies potential projects that might be voluntarily applied by landowners and agencies to reduce sediment loading into the river. 

            While creating this watershed plan, the group identified data gaps and monitoring needs. In response to this, some preliminary data collection efforts started in 2017 and continued into 2018 and 2019. Because of the lack of data, the majority of the watershed plan was based on qualitative determinations of available information such as aerial imagery, hydrology and topography and the best professional judgment of working group members through experience and visual observations.

            The outcomes from this working group’s efforts are a detailed watershed plan and a sediment monitoring plan for the Shoshone River between Willwood Dam and Buffalo Bill Dam. This completed watershed plan aids the Powell Clarks Fork Conservation District, Cody Conservation District, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Trout Unlimited and other agencies or organizations with management decisions and prioritizing projects within their areas. 

            This type of watershed plan helps agencies, such as the conservation districts, to be competitive for grant funds. To date, the Cody Conservation District has already secured a grant and the Powell Clarks Fork Conservation District has just submitted another grant proposal. 

            The next steps of the Willwood Working Group #3 are to identify funding sources to implement the sediment monitoring plan for the Shoshone River and its tributaries, while also identifying and implementing voluntary projects that will reduce sediment loading to the Shoshone River. 

            To see an overview of the efforts by Working Group #3, please visit the story map at The story map that details the Shoshone River Watershed Plan can be found at

            For questions about the watershed plan or the Willwood Working Group #3’s efforts, please contact the Powell Clarks Fork Conservation District, Cody Conservation District or email the group at Vardiman is a University of Wyoming Extension educator and Willwood Working Group #3 member. He can be reached at

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