Wind River Reservation, Wyoming


Discovery of a leak at Washakie Dam prompted dam operators to release water behind the dam to ease pressure on the newly renovated structure. This sent 1,200 cubic feet of water into the South Fork of the Little Wind River, Shoshone and Arapaho tribal leaders reported in a recent news release. As a result, the water level in the reservoir dropped 4.2 feet to 6,346 feet. Dam inspectors noticed moist soil at the base of the facility June 7. Engineers determined the source a day later after one of several small trenches dug to pinpoint the leak started filling with water. "The amount of seepage was greater than projected by the design of the safety modifications and, if left unchecked, had a potential for becoming a major problem," the tribes said. Earthen dams such as Washakie Dam commonly leak water but this leak could have threatened the dam's structure, officials said. Congress recently authorized funding for a multi-million-dollar rehabilitation project to rebuild the 65-year-old dam, five miles west of Fort Washakie, based on safety factors. "With the present reservoir level of 6,346 feet, there is no significant risk to persons or property at this time," the tribes said, adding a study is underway to control the problem. Higher prices for oil and natural gas boosted monthly payments to Shoshone and Arapaho tribal members from royalties and taxes for use of their land, government officials said. Per capita payments for the third quarter of 2000 increased from $200 to $300 for enrolled Eastern Shoshone members and from $100 to $150 for enrolled Northern Arapaho members. The payments are double what enrolled tribal members received in the first quarter. Another review will be made in September to determine payments for the fourth quarter, the BIA Wind River Agency reported.