This week, Grand Teton National Park advanced a riverbank restoration project to remove approximately 13 tons of old angle iron beams from the Buffalo Fork of the Snake River.
Grand Teton proposed the removal of these structures in its Snake River Headwaters Comprehensive River Management Plan, completed in 2014. Shortly after, permits were obtained from the Army Corps of Engineers and Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, and a restoration effort was launched.
Ridgeline Excavation of Jackson, Wyoming was contracted to do the “heavy lifting” portion of the project and is now removing nearly 13 tons of the angle iron beams using the tracked excavator.
This portion of the restoration project was greatly aided by the volunteers’ work to remove the cables, wiring and tripod bolts. The angle iron pieces will be recycled as scrap metal after their removal.
The contracted restoration work is taking place during the winter, when the ground is frozen and snow-covered, to minimize environmental impacts to the sensitive riparian habitat. Ice bridges have been constructed to support the tracked excavator and reduce impacts to vegetation and soils.
In the final phase of the project, JHWF volunteers will return to help the park remove and recycle any remaining metal pieces, and park biologists will plant native willow and alder to accelerate natural regrowth of the disturbed site.
The Buffalo Fork project is the third in a series of recent riparian restoration projects that benefit park resources. In the fall of 2010, Grand Teton worked with Trout Unlimited and other partners to remove the Spread Creek Dam, and in 2013 removed the Newbold Dam near Kelly, also with help from Trout Unlimited.
Each of those projects improved fish habitat and passage on tributaries of the Wild and Scenic Snake River.