Rehabilitation Project of Green River Dam Nears Completion

Posted: 05/02/2016
By: Nathan Fey


SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Utah, in conjunction with the Green River Conservation District and Utah Department of Agriculture and Food (UDAF), will open the Green River Dam rehabilitation project to interested members of the public and media on Wednesday, May 11, 2016 in Emery County. The event will take place at the project site via Hastings Road at 11:00 am.

American Whitewater worked to secure safe boat passage at the dam site - the last major in-stream barrier to fish and paddlers between Flaming Gorge and the confluence with the Colorado River in Cataract Canyon.  AW invites paddlers to attend the event, and to participate in a possible demonstration for project partners and media. However, floating through the new feature is not encouraged until all the safety evaluations are complete later this season.  Help us thank our partners for supporting efforts to improve public safety and navigability of the Green River, while reconnecting fish and wildlife habitat and honoring the historical and Agricultural significance of the diversion. 

PHOTO (Tim Gaylord) New Green River Diversion, nearing completion.

Directions to site here:

“This dam will provide a secure supply of irrigation water for the many farmers, ranchers and secondary water users in this area well into the future,” said Utah Commissioner of Agriculture and Food, LuAnn Adams.  ”Water in the West can make or break a community, and this dam literally keeps the green in Green River, Utah.” 

The Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) project to restore the Green River Diversion stemmed from the 2010-2011 flood events which caused chipping of concrete, undercutting of the foundation, and cracks associated with structural failure. In the event of diversion failure, water service would cease to three irrigation canals, a historic irrigation water delivery system, and a hydropower plant. 

The EWP program established by Congress responds to emergencies created by natural disasters, such as floods and fires, and protects life and property from any future event of a similar magnitude. Projects are administered by the NRCS, in partnership with local sponsors, usually State or Local governments.

With a combined investment of $7.7 million, and six months of construction work, NRCS Utah and UDAF restored existing functions of the diversion, initially constructed in the early 1900s, for water delivery to irrigation canals and upgraded the diversion structure to current design standards. The fish protection and passage components were included to meet Endangered Species Act (ESA) requirements for listed fish species populations in the Green River, and the boat passage provision is a navigability requirement in the state of Utah. Gate structures were also installed to the diversion to mitigate potential upstream flooding.

Bowen Collins & Associates, Inc. from Draper, Utah was the engineering consultant who designed the new works, and Gerber Construction, Inc. from Lehi, Utah was the contractor who built the project.  

“The success of this project is due to the great partnership of local landowners, state and federal agencies, and local community leadership to implement a project that will provide benefits for years to come.  NRCS has a long history of Helping People Help the Land, and this project was no exception.” Bronson Smart, NRCS State Conservation Engineer.


Agricultural Importance

Agriculture generates $20 million to the economies of Emery and Grand Counties, with a large portion of that revenue tied to water from the Green River. Green River melons sell in several Western states, and are well known to consumers at grocery stores and farmers markets. Aside from melons, alfalfa, corn and livestock also thrive on Green River water. More than 5,300 acres of farmland are irrigated with water made available by the diversion dam.


Historical Importance

The Tusher diversion has played an important role in the development of the Green River community but especially with agricultural development. Since the 1913 completion date for the historical structure, it has been a critical element in diverting or conveying water into three historical canals and one power plant. The site of the Tusher diversion was chosen early on, and pioneers from the community used temporary diversions of rock, brush, logs, etc. for a number of years to convey water into a ditch on the west side of the river. The cooperative work effort involved the entire community and was celebrated with an annual work effort and community picnic. The first permanent dam washed away during spring flooding immediately following its completion. 


The need for a permanent structure led Mr. George Thurman to design the historical Tusher Diversion, which has served the community since 1913. It is unique among diversion dams in the west. The Tusher Diversion has been determined eligible for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places due to its important contribution to the establishment of Green River, and due to its unique design. The historical backstory is a testament to the cooperative effort of community pioneers and to the ingenuity of individuals to overcome natural obstacles with unique designs.


Wildlife and Habitat Importance

The diversion-structure restoration design considers five federally listed threatened and endangered fish species. Currently, the Green River harbors the most robust population and two known, active spawning locations of the Colorado pike minnow; two known population centers of the humpback chub; two known, active spawning locations of the razerback sucker and populations of stocked individuals of razorback sucker and bonytail. Restoration of the diversion structure includes carefully designed fish passage and electronic monitoring components that will provide long-term observation and tracking for these important species.  


Recreational Importance

Navigating the Green River, from Flaming Gorge to the Colorado River, is popular for boaters and anglers. Every year thousands navigate the river for its scenery and ideal fishing conditions. According to Nathan Fey, stewardship director with American Whitewater, the Green River Dam was the last impediment to the boating community as they made their way toward Utah’s Canyonlands. In the past, boaters would simply avoid the diversion because of the unsafe hydraulic conditions the obstacle produced.

“Installing the boat chute makes navigating the Green River safer,” Fey said. “It should enhance the boating experience for clients of commercial outfitters and the general public, especially during low flows.”


Green River EWP by the numbers: 

  • • Geotextile Filter Fabric= 22,000 square yards
  • • Sheet Piling Installed = 870 linear feet
  • • Rip Rap Installed = 11,000 cubic yards
  • • Grout Placed = 2,000 cubic yards
  • • Structural Concrete = 1,600 cubic yards
  • • Overshot Gates = 4
  • • Slide Gates = 5 
  • • Fish Screens = 3
  • • Fish Passages = 3
  • • Boat Passages = 1


Project Partners:

  • • USDA-NRCS (Natural Resource Conservation Service)
  • • Utah Department of Agriculture and Food: Division of Plant Industry and Conservation 
  • • Green River Conservation District
  • • Thayn Hydro Power and Canal Co., Green River, Utah
  • • Green River Canal Co
  • • Eastside Canal Co.
  • • Utah Department of Natural Resources: Division of Water Resources; Division of Wildlife Resources; Division of Forestry Fire and State Lands;  Division of State Parks and Recreation, 
  • • Utah Department of Environmental Quality: Division of Water Quality
  • • State of Utah DCFM
  • • U.S. Bureau of Land Management
  • • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  • • Federal Energy Regulatory CommissionFunding from State Legislature
  • • Green River City

Agency Media Contact:

Reynaldo Leal, USDA NRCS public affairs specialist, 801-524-4557 

Larry M. Lewis, UDAF communications director, 801-538-7104

Colorado Stewardship Director

Nathan Fey

1601 Longs Peak Ave.

Longmont, CO 80501

Phone: 303-859-8601
Full Profile

Associated Projects

Green River (WY/UT/CO)

A private firm in Colorado has identified the Green River in Wyoming as a potential source of new water supplies for Colorado's growing East Slope. The proposal to divert more than 250,000 acre-feet o

Green River Diversion Structure

The Green River Diversion Structure, upstream of Green River Utah, is being considered for rehabilitation or reconstruction under the NRCS Emergency Watershed Protection Program. AW is working to sec


Join AW and support river stewardship nationwide!