Bighorn River Issues Group

The Bighorn River Alliance believes that long-term conservation success of the Bighorn River trout fishery stems from successful basin communication and collaboration efforts. The Bighorn River System Issues Group provides the basis for such collaboration by uniting various Bighorn River interest groups together in a forum that encourages the cooperative exchange of information, data, and recommendations pertaining to current and forecasted river management practices. The BHRA participates in the Bighorn River Issues Group to advocate for river management practices that preserve and protect the wild trout of the Bighorn River.

The Bighorn River  Issues Group works to identify, explore and recommend alternative courses of action to local, tribal, state and federal entities responsible for managing Bighorn River system resources for their consideration as part of long-term management strategies. The challenge is to re-examine the uses and needs of the Bighorn River system to find an appropriate balance of public benefits while recognizing the respective agencies’ commitment to authorized project purposes, legal obligations, contemporary needs and public expectations.

Current River Conditions

Yellowtail Dam Reservoir and River Operating Plans

December 2016
January 2017
February 2017
April 2017
May 2017
June 2017
July 2017
August 2017
September 2017
October 2017
November 2017
December 2017
January 2018
February 2018

The Bighorn River Basin experienced an unprecedented and persistent drought from 2000 to 2008 which strained the Bureau of Reclamation’s (BOR) ability to meet all of the demands on Yellowtail Dam and Reservoir.  The Bighorn River System Issues Group (Issues Group) was formed as a means to collaboratively identify and investigate opportunities to help better meet the competing demands on Yellowtail.  With extensive input from these entities, revised operating criteria for Yellowtail Dam and Bighorn Lake were developed and implemented for the 2010 water year.  Minor updates to the criteria were implemented in 2012 following the record runoff events of 2011 and again in 2015.  The Bighorn River Alliance communicates with the BOR at semi-annual formal operations and Issues Group meetings, and by participating in monthly stakeholder conference calls that discuss BOR current operating criteria.

Yellowtail Dam Operating Criteria

Issues Group Participants

•Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks
•Bighorn River Alliance
•Friends of the Bighorn River
•Friends of the Bighorn Lake
•Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation
•Wyoming Game and Fish
•Wyoming State Engineers Office
•Western Area Power Administration
•National Park Service
•Bureau of Indian Affairs
•Northern Cheyenne Tribe
•Crow Tribe
•Congressional Representatives from Montana and Wyoming


The Bureau of Reclamation will present water supply conditions in the Bighorn Basin and discuss the agency’s spring operating plan for Yellowtail Dam/Bighorn Lake at a public meeting held on Tuesday, April 24th in Billings.  Additionally, the Bighorn River Issues group will discuss operating criteria for Yellowtail Dam.

The meeting location and time is TBD.