Teton Dam History

On June 5, 1976, Teton Dam in southeastern Idaho catastrophically failed. Early that Saturday morning, bulldozer operators tried in vain to plug seepage holes on the downstream face of the dam. By 11 a.m., a torrent of water ripped through the dam, releasing more than one million cubic feet per second. The communities of Sugar City, Rexburg, and Wilford were battered by the trees, houses, cattle and cars carried by the floodwaters. In the end, 11 people died and there was millions of dollars in property damage.

Reclamation’s Dam Safety program evolved out of this disaster. Watch this video for a look back on lessons learned and the development of Reclamation’s Dam Safety program: https://www.usbr.gov/ssle/damsafety/index.html.

The program is recognized worldwide as the standard for Dam Safety and Risk Management. The commitment to dam safety extends from the Commissioner in Washington to the field staff at every Reclamation dam. Reclamation engineers assess all Reclamation dams under strict criteria established by the program. Each structure is periodically reviewed for resistance to seismic stability, internal faults and physical deterioration. The goal of the Dam Safety program is long-term stability of dams to protect lives, property, and ensure the physical integrity of the dams.

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Last Updated: 11/30/23