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.
Reports and Data
- Project History PDF 134 kb
- Teton Dam History & Facts PDF 155 kb
- After Teton PDF 14.45 mb
- 100 Years of Embankment Dam Design and Construction in the Bureau of Reclamation PDF 1.75 mb
- Teton River Canyon Resource Management Plan PDF 5.21 mb
- Oral History Interview: Max E. Van Den Berg
- Oral History Interview: John W. Keys III
- Dam Safety Program
- Geomorphology and River Hydraulics of the Teton River Upstream of Teton Dam PDF 63.73 mb
Teton Dam near Rexburg, Idaho, failed on first filling of the reservoir in 1976. To determine what impacts occurred in this upstream canyon reach (from the filling of Teton Reservoir and subsequent failure of Teton Dam), a geomorphology and river hydraulics study was completed by Reclamation during 1997-2000, more than 20 years after the dam failure. When Teton Dam failed, the reservoir was 270 feet deep (at the dam) and drained in less than six hours. The filling and the subsequent rapid draining of the reservoir triggered more than 200 landslides in the river canyon that was inundated by the former reservoir.
- Report to U.S. Department of the Interior and State of Idaho on Failure of Teton Dam PDF 62.61 mb
Independent Panel to Review Cause of Teton Dam Failure, December 1976
- Living with Dams PDF
- The Teton Dam: rhyolite foundation + loess core = disaster
- BYU-Idaho Library Photographs
- History Channel Video: Teton Dam Disaster
- IBHS 1976 Teton Dam Collapse
- Teton Dam Failure Narrative
- The Teton Dam Disaster
- The American Presidency Project - Remarks Upon Signing the Teton Dam Disaster Assistance Bill
- Failure of Teton Dam: A Report of Findings
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