Wallowa Lake Dam History
The original curved section of the Wallowa Lake Dam was constructed in 1919 on the natural outlet of Wallowa Lake. It was raised 3 feet the following year, and raised an additional 5 feet in 1929. The Dam provides over 50,000 acre-feet of storage in the reservoir that is used for irrigation. Directly the Dam provides stored water for 16,000 acres, which is Wallowa Lake Irrigation District. It is estimated that the Wallowa Lake Dam affects approximately 37,000 acres throughout Wallowa County. This Dam also provides flood control for all the adjacent properties around the Wallowa River every spring.
Since 1979 Dam safety inspections have occured semi-annually. In 1996 the Wallowa Lake Dam has been listed as high hazard by Oregon Water Resources Department Dam Safety. This has forced the farmers to operate the Dam at a 72% capacity. Since this classification the local farmers have volunteered countless hours to find ways to fund a rehabilitation project, which would bring us back to 100% capacity, as well as providing fish passage into the lake.
At its original construction the Dam was owned and operated by the Associated Ditch Companies, Inc. The ADC was comprised of five different ditches: Silver Lake, Farmers, Big Bend, Dobbin, and Creighton. In 2017 the farmers decided to restructure and form an Irrigation District, which is the current operation of Wallowa Lake Irrigation District. Since its formation WLID has been given the opportunity for State funding to help achieve its goals of rehabilitating the Wallowa Lake Dam. Once completed it will continue to provide and protect a large portion of Wallowa County’s economic drivers, as well as contribute to improving fish habitat along the Wallowa River.