Henry's Fork Watershed Council

The Henry’s Fork Foundation believes that local collaboration is critical to ensuring the sustainability of the Henry’s Fork ecosystem and the people and resources it supports. Co-facilitated by the Henry’s Fork Foundation and Fremont-Madison Irrigation District, the Henry’s Fork Watershed Council forms the basis of this collaboration by promoting respect and cooperation among state and federal agencies, non-governmental organizations, water users, private landowners, businesses, and other watershed stakeholders. 


To receive notifications about future meetings, email council@henrysfork.org.




Henry's Fork Basin Special Study

Special Meeting

Wednesday, May 14, 2014
8 a.m. until noon
Springhill Marriott, Rexburg

The Bureau of Reclamation will hold an informational meeting and open-house regarding water supply options proposed in the Henry’s Fork Basin on Monday, May 14, 2014, from 5-7 p.m. at the Trails Inn in Ashton. Since June 2010, the Bureau and the Idaho Water Resource Board have studied options to replace the water supply storage lost when Teton Dam failed in 1976, and have used the Henry’s Fork Watershed Council to facilitate public involvement.

Read the press release

Download the DRAFT Henry's Fork Basin Special Study

2012 Recharge Symposium

December 11, 2012
Download the agenda
Watch the symposium
Download the minutes

Since the 1950s, the Eastern Snake Plain aquifer water levels have been falling due to multiple factors, including changes in irrigation practices. While there is an aquifer management plan in place and it identifies recharge as a significant way to improve water levels in the aquifer, there is still not a coordinated program that rewards those who are able to provide recharge or relieve those who are under a threat of having their groundwater supply curtailed.  

The Henry’s Fork Watershed Council held the Upper Snake River Aquifer Recharge Symposium last month to identify the roadblocks associated with creating an effective recharge program and how to remove those roadblocks. Over 100 people attended the symposium, where they learned that, over the years, recharge has evolved from an informal, ad hoc process to actually incorporating modeling and evaluation to discover the effects of recharge on specific river reaches and aquifer areas.  

The Henry’s Fork Foundation and other organizations want to ensure that the health of river ecosystems is always considered as the State of Idaho and local irrigation districts move forward with recharge plans. Aquifer recharge has the potential for negative or positive effects on river systems depending on how it is done. In order to get all view points on aquifer recharge, nearly 20 presenters provided information on the subject, including Trout Unlimited, Idaho Fish and Game, Idaho Department of Water Resources, Idaho Department of Environmental Quality, local irrigation districts, private contractors, and others. The keynote speaker was Gary Spackman, Director of the Idaho Department of Water Resources.

The recharge symposium was held at the Shilo Inn Convention Center in Idaho Falls on December 11, 2012 in lieu of the watershed council’s annual conference. The meeting began with welcome and introductions from the Henry’s Fork Watershed Council Co-facilitators:  Brandon Hoffner, Executive Director of the Henry’s Fork Foundation and Dale Swensen, Executive Director of Fremont-Madison Irrigation District.  

Symposium Presentations

Due to space constraints, we have provided only a few of the symposium presentations for download below. You can request additional presentations by emailing the Watershed Council.

"Identifying Ecological Consequences Associated With Aquifer Recharge" by Thomas Bassista, Idaho Fish and Game
"Considerations of Large Scale Recharge in the ESPA" by Roger Chase, Idaho Water Resources Board
"History of Managed Recharge Efforts on the Eastern Snake Plain" by Brian Patton, Idaho Water Resources Board


The Henry's Fork Watershed Council is a grassroots, community forum that uses a nonadversarial, consensus-based approach to problem solving and conflict resolution among citizens, scientists and agencies with varied perspectives. The Council is taking the initiative to better appreciate the complex watershed relationships in the Henry's Fork Basin, to restore and enhance watershed resources where needed, and to maintain a sustainable watershed resource base for future generations. In addressing social, economic and environmental concerns in the basin, Council members will respectfully cooperate and coordinate with one another and abide by federal, state and local laws and regulations.

The Henry's Fork Watershed

The Henry's Fork watershed in eastern Idaho and western Wyoming encompasses 1.7 million acres and over 3,000 miles of rivers, streams and canals. High mountain streams and warm natural springs form the headwaters of the Henry's Fork of the Snake River, which flows through deep canyons as it descends to the agricultural land of the upper Snake River Valley. This rich watershed supports healthy populations of fish and wildlife, including several threatened and endangered species, as well as high-quality recreational experiences.

There are about 40,000 people who live in four Idaho counties in the watershed — Fremont, Teton, and parts of Madison and Clark— plus the southwest corner of Yellowstone National Park and west slope of the Teton Range in Teton County, Wyoming. Mormon and Lutheran homesteaders, who originally settled the basin, built irrigation canals and storage reservoirs for water in the late 1800s. Canals divert water from the Henry's Fork, Fall River, Teton River and smaller tributaries, and dams built on Henry's Lake Outlet and the Henry's Fork store irrigation water. Over 235,000 acres of farmland are irrigated from surface or groundwater sources in the basin; potatoes and grains are the primary crops. Other important sectors of the economy include recreation and tourism services, government, timber products and livestock.


As interests in the basin diversified over the years, the Henry's Fork sustained intense pressure to satisfy irrigation demand, hydropower requirements and instream flow needs for fisheries and recreation. These issues were the focal points of the Henry's Fork Basin Plan passed by the 1993 Idaho Legislature. As a result of the Plan, new developments such as dams, diversions and hydro projects were prohibited on 195 miles of the Henry's Fork and its tributaries. Recommendations in the Basin Plan also addressed water quality, fish and wildlife protection and irrigation water conservation. In order to implement the recommendations and achieve long-term goals in the basin, an innovative, consensus-building process was sought to include all parties with interests in the watershed.

In 1993 citizens and agency representatives began to craft a new approach to reconciling watershed issues in the Henry's Fork Basin. The various interests recognized the importance of working together as a rural community to resolve the ecological problems in the watershed and to work towards a sustainable future for all concerned, and in 1994, the Henry's Fork Watershed Council was organized and chartered by the Idaho Legislature.

The Council is comprised of citizens, scientists and agency representatives who reside, recreate, make a living or have legal responsibilities in the basin, thus ensuring a more collaborative approach to resource decision making. Meetings begin and end with community building to help build relationships among participants, but work sessions are divided into three component groups comprised of a citizen's group, a technical team and an agency roundtable.

The Henry's Fork Watershed Council is cofacilitated by two representative citizen organizations from the basin, the Fremont-Madison Irrigation District and the Henry's Fork Foundation. The Facilitation Team is chartered to attend to the administrative and logistical needs of the Council, coordinate its public information activities and submit annual reports of its progress to the Legislature. The Henry's Fork Watershed Fund was established by the State of Idaho to help fund projects in the basin and to defray Council administrative expenses. Contributions to the Watershed Fund are also received from the private sector.

Council Duties

Henry's Fork Watershed Council duties identified in the Legislative Charter include cooperating in resource studies and planning that transcend jurisdictional boundaries, respecting the mission, roles, water and other rights of each entity, and to review and critique proposed watershed projects and Basin Plan recommendations, suggesting priorities for their implementation by appropriate agencies. Other duties are to identify and coordinate funding sources for research, planning and implementation and long-term monitoring programs, with financing derived from both public and private sectors and to serve as an educational resource to the Legislature and the general public, communicating the Council's progress through regular reports, media forums and other presentations.

Projects are reviewed by the Council using the Watershed Integrity Review and Evaluation process. Projects seeking endorsement of the Council through the WIRE process may seek funding assistance, political support or interagency cooperation in their implementation. An annual "State of the Watershed" Conference is held each fall to monitor the progress of Council-endorsed projects and to present research and monitoring results.

Watershed Integrity Review and Evaluation (WIRE)


  1. Watershed Perspective: Does the project employ or reflect a total watershed perspective?
  2. Credibility:Is the project based upon credible research or scientific data?
  3. Problem and Solution: Does the project clearly identify the resource problems and propose workable solutions that consider the relevant resources?
  4. Water Supply: Does the project demonstrate an understanding of water supply?
  5. Project Management: Does project management employ accepted or innovative practices, set realistic time frames for their implementation and employ an effective monitoring plan?
  6. Sustainability: Does the project emphasize sustainable ecosystems?
  7. Social and Cultural: Does the project sufficiently address the watershed's social and cultural concerns?
  8. Economy: Does the project promote economic diversity within the watershed and help sustain a healthy economic base?
  9. Cooperation and Coordination: Does the project maximize cooperation among all parties and demonstrate sufficient coordination among appropriate groups or agencies?
  10. Legality: Is the project lawful and respectful of agencies' legal responsibilities?

Conference Proceedings

The Henry's Fork Watershed Council hosts a conference each year. From its inception, the council has provided decision-makers an opportunity to meet in a collaborative forum to address watershed issues. All meetings are open to the public. Everyone is encouraged to attend and learn more about the Council and its unique process for solving today's complex watershed issues.

The Henry's Fork Watershed Center has been established in Ashton, Idaho, to provide a central library, database repository and working place for all those participating in the collaborative watershed program. The Center also serves as the public's source for watershed information and a focal point for Council business and administrative needs. For more information about the Council, contact the Watershed Center at the address below, or either of the cofacilitating organizations.

Cofacilitator Information

The Henry's Fork Foundation
PO Box 550
Ashton, ID 83420
Email: hff@henrysfork.org

Fremont-Madison Irrigation District
PO Box 15
St. Anthony, ID 83445
Email: fmid@fretel.com

Location: HFF Campus, 801 Main St., Ashton



8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. Thursday, November 16

8:30 a.m. – 3 p.m. Friday, November 17


Format: Morning: presentations live-streamed from Boise to Moscow, Pocatello, and Ashton. Afternoon: Facilitated discussions at local venues. Agenda available at climate summit web page: http://www.idahoclimatesummit.com/


Registration: $29 for Ashton venue: http://www.idahoclimatesummit.com/register/

Breaks and lunch included.


Sponsors still needed. Current sponsors include Idaho Power, Idaho National Laboratory, The Nature Conservancy, American Fisheries Society, Monsanto, Clif Bar, Hewlett Packard, Idaho Water Resources Research Institute, Potlach Corporation, J.R. Simplot Company, Trout Unlimited and others. To become a state-wide sponsor, follow the link below.


Sponsorship information: http://www.idahoclimatesummit.com/sponsor/


We need volunteers at the Ashton venue to take notes and text audience questions to the live venue in Boise. Please reply to this email or email jamie@henrysfork.org if you are interested in volunteering.


Thank you and please email or call Jamie at (208) 652-3567 with any questions.