Snake flows to be moderately high

By Jim Stanford on May 16, 2014

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Rounding the bend below Deadman’s Bar is always exciting.

There is still plenty of snow in the mountains, but with ample space to catch it in Jackson Lake, runoff on the Snake River is unlikely to reach historic levels.

That’s the assessment Mike Beus, operations manager for the Bureau of Reclamation, delivered at the agency’s water meeting in Jackson last night. The bureau controls releases at Jackson Lake and Palisades dams to supply water for irrigation in Idaho and prevent floods.

Runoff in the upper Snake basin is projected to be about 130 percent of normal, Beus said. But because of last year’s drought, the uppermost reservoirs are filling slowly. The Jackson Lake reservoir was drawn down to 18 percent of capacity last fall, and Palisades was nearly empty.

The bureau is releasing only 300 cubic feet per second from Jackson Lake Dam; it will double the flow shortly before Memorial Day weekend and increase the release to 2,500 cfs by June 1.

The agency plans to gradually increase the dam release as tributaries drop off, thereby reducing the risk of flooding. The bureau projects a maximum release of just over 5,000 cfs beginning in late June. Once the runoff subsides, the release will be held steady at 2,500 cfs through the end of September.

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Thuermer stepping down as News&Guide editor

By Jim Stanford on April 24, 2014

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Angus Thuermer will be taking his Leica around Wyoming writing about the environment for WyoFile.

The bombshell news came on the bottom of page two.

Angus M. Thuermer Jr., the dean of Jackson Hole journalism, is resigning as editor of the News&Guide, the paper reported yesterday.

Thuermer, 61, will become statewide natural resources correspondent for the online news outlet WyoFile. His last day at the paper is May 21.

Thuermer started in the pressroom at the Jackson Hole News in 1978 and worked his way up to editor. He reputedly kidnapped publisher Mike Sellett’s dog and held it ransom for a newsroom job.

Along with Sellett, Thuermer presided over the News as it became one of the top small weeklies in the country. He wrote the bulk of environmental news during the 1990s, covering stories like the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone, recovery of grizzly bears and slaughter of bison outside the world’s first national park.

The hard-nosed newsman doggedly pursued his stories, taking on developers, despoilers of natural resources and politicians who sought to conduct public business in secret. He told riveting tales of grizzly maulings, avalanches and rescues of climbers in Grand Teton National Park.

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geologist to give overview of slide

By Jim Stanford on April 18, 2014

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These aerial photos show a comparison of the Walgreens site over time. The arc in the top photo is the landslide, not yet disturbed by quarrying and development. An irrigation ditch and cottonwoods used to run along the base of the butte.

There will be a press conference at 10 a.m. today at Town Hall to give an update on the landslide affecting Walgreens and Budge Drive. Immediately following, Peter Ward of the Geologists of Jackson Hole will give a presentation titled, “Options for Dealing with the Budge Landslide.” Ward will give an overview of the geology and human activities at the site from the 1950s to the present.

Both events will be streamed live and archived on the Town of Jackson website.

Ward’s talk is a must for anyone wishing to get a better understanding of how we got into this predicament, and looking to avoid another such collision between nature and development in the future.

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time-lapse video of Walgreens landslide

By Jim Stanford on April 18, 2014

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Update 3:15 p.m.: A crack has appeared in the wall of the Sidewinders parking deck, and three of the supporting beams are leaning at a crooked angle. The buckling of the Walgreens parking lot measures 8 feet high in places, and the Budge house above the cliff has broken in half.

After a week of slow movement by a landslide on East Gros Ventre Butte, the hillside above Walgreens began crumbling yesterday, creating a spectacle that drew hundreds of onlookers along West Broadway.

The slide sent near-continuous streams of dirt and rocks into the Walgreens parking lot, halting work on a restraining buttress. Movement of 3 feet was measured in the easternmost crack.

The Town of Jackson has set up a camera for live video streaming, from which this time lapse was made. (The live cam will not play on mobile devices.)

As of this morning, buttress work again stopped as the lower portion of Budge Drive has been lost. Town crews are working to salvage the technical equipment from the pump house that supplied water to homes and businesses in the area.

The slide accelerated yesterday, causing extreme buckling of the pavement and pushing the pump house into the Walgreens entrance sign. The lower parking lot of Sidewinders is buckling and undulating, too.

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council to discuss landslide response

By Jim Stanford on April 14, 2014

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Brad Watsabaugh shows where a crack has formed in the ground above Budge Drive during a tour of the area last week.

The Jackson Town Council has shuffled the agenda for today’s 3 p.m. workshop to consider the landslide above Walgreens on East Gros Ventre Butte.

An update on the landslide and the town’s response will be the first item discussed. The meeting will take place in Town Hall and be streamed live on the Internet.

Town manager Bob McLaurin plans to ask the council to authorize emergency spending up to $750,000. That figure has swelled from the $50,000 the council initially authorized Thursday.

There will be a press conference at 11 a.m., also streamed online, for authorities to explain the Budge Drive closure. It is expected that Budge Drive will be closed for the foreseeable future, and residents may access the low-risk area on foot after receiving permission from private property owners.

New cracks formed in the hillside above Walgreens and Budge Drive over the weekend, and existing cracks continue to widen or deepen. Pavement continues to buckle in the closed store’s parking lot.

One of the town’s chief concerns is protecting a water main running along the West Broadway bike path, which is still under construction. The slide has been moving beneath the Budge Drive pump house and is about 10 to 15 feet from the water line, McLaurin said.

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