Acme Diversion

Turning coal mine brownfield into community asset

About the Project

The Tongue River, a tributary of the Yellowstone River, flows 265 miles from its headwaters in Wyoming’s Big Horn Mountains through northern Wyoming and southeastern Montana. The Acme Diversion, the uppermost barrier on the Tongue River, was built in 1910 to provide cooling water for the Acme Power Plant, which sits next to the diversion. Now dilapidated and part of a contaminated “brownfield” site requiring restoration, the structure impedes fish passage, impacts river channel function, increases the risk of flooding, and is a hazard for recreational boaters. Removal of the Acme Diversion Dam will open 38 river miles for people and fish and enable restoration of the river channel and bank at the dam site.

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department classified this reach of the Tongue River in Sheridan County as a “red ribbon” trout fishery and identified it as a statewide priority area in its “2020 Statewide Habitat Plan.” In addition to being a popular fishing destination, the river attracts residents and visitors for boating and other recreational river activities.

The Sheridan County Conservation District acquired ownership of the contaminated site with the intention of restoring it, removing the diversion, and returning it to public use. The project is part of a larger local community effort to repurpose the 5-acre site into outdoor spaces for youth programs and recreation opportunities. Enhanced access to nature is expected to provide important mental health benefits – vital in a state where suicide rates have climbed steadily for two decades. The project also sets an example to other communities on how to repurpose abandoned energy extraction infrastructure into useful public resources that contribute to the economic, social, and environmental sustainability of local communities.

FACTS AT A GLANCE
Owner: Sheridan County Conservation District
Size: 5-foot-high, channel-spanning dam
Project Cost: $216,500
ORF Investment: ORF provided last money in to complete project construction
Miles Opened: 38
Fish: brown and rainbow trout, mountain sucker, mountain whitefish, northern redhorse
Status: removal completed in April 2023


OUTCOMES
  • Open 38 miles of river for fish and recreation
  • Restore 850 feet of river channel and bank at the project site
  • Remove an environmental and safety hazard from the river
  • Improve river function
  • Remove a flood hazard
  • Support a local effort to remediate an abandoned coal plant and return the land to public use
  • Improve local recreation, including fishing, boating, and hunting
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Project Partners

Sheridan County Conservation District

Wyoming Game and Fish Department

Sheridan Community Land Trust

Padlock Ranch Company

The Nature Conservancy

Wyoming Department of Agriculture

National Wild Turkey Federation

Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust

Laura Jane Musser Foundation