Teton River Canyon, ID Teton Dam Collapse and Flooding, June 1976

Initial Failure At Dam The Failure Increases Remains Of Dam Rexburg Flooding


Flood waters from Saturday's Teton Dam break crested in Blackfoot shortly before 4 a.m. today and have started to recede, after covering low-lying areas of that 8,700 person community with over 10 feet of water.

The flood waters, which have left in their wake six persons known dead, 80 injured, and at least 135 missing, are expected to enter the upper end of the American Falls Reservoir sometime this afternoon. That reservoir is approximately 25 miles downstream from Blackfoot.

The first confirmed death from the flood is DAVID BENSON, 21, of Teton, who was fishing when the waters struck.

The Teton Dam was 310 feet high and stretched 3,000 feet across the Teton River canyon. It was 35 feet wide at the crest. Approximately one-third of the $55 million Bureau of Reclamation Dam collapsed Saturday morning, sending a wall of water down the canyon that was over 15 feet high and at times over five miles wide.

Federal officials said aerial surveys indicated 450 farms, 700 homes, and 200 businesses were damaged or destroyed. State officials said 2,900 homes have been evacuated, with an estimated 4,500 persons spending Saturday and Sunday night in emergency housing in Rexburg or with friends.

Late Saturday night, President Ford declared the flooded four counties -- Madison, Fremont, Bingham, and Bonneville -- a major disaster area. This cleared the way for emergency aid from federal agencies. Civil defense officials have released preliminary damage estimates of $55 million in Fremont County.
JOE WELCH, a special assistant to Idaho Gov. CECIL ANDRUS, said the Madison County Civil Defense Council had placed property loss at $540 million.

Crop losses in Eastern Idaho have already been estimated at $80 million. Livestock losses are placed at $4.9 million. These figures are expected to rise.

Damage to Union Pacific railroad tracks was estimated at $174 million. Damage to utility firms and telephone and electric lines has so far reached $20 million.

About 200 miles of Utah Power and Light Co. power lines were downed in the Rexburg area alone.

U. S. Commissioner of Reclamation GILBERT G. STAMM, an Idaho native, and assistant interior secretary JACK HORTON, arrived in Idaho Sunday and announced a two-pronged investigation. One will be led by federal Interior Department officials and the other by an independent blue ribbon panel of engineers.
Water from collapse of the 80-billion-gallon reservoir and earth-fill dam was recorded at a record height of 18.47 feet on Blackfoot stream gauges at 3:38 a.m. today. By 5:30 a.m. this morning, the water level had receded to 18.16 feet. Normal water level for June is five feet and 10,000 cubic feet per second. Flood stage is said to be reached whenever the water reaches ten feet and 26,000 cubic feet per second.
Idaho State Journal correspondent ESTHER LAKE in Blackfoot said water in that city broke through a dike protecting lands along the Snake River. Rushing water quickly covered the Blackfoot golf course, municipal airport, Jensen Grove Park, and the Bingham Co-op of U. S. 26, the main highway to Arco.
Also partly or completely flooded in Blackfoot were the Riverside Plaze, the Treehouse Restaurant, and Valley Bank, all of which are below Highway 26.