Office of External Affairs
Mountain-Prairie Region


U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Mountain-Prairie Region
134 Union Boulevard
Lakewood, Colorado 80228


Otto Jose, 303-236-8156

Service Seeks Public Comments on Proposal to Build New Dam and Enlarge Lake Henry

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is seeking public comment on a draft environmental assessment of a state proposal "Rehabilitation of Lake Henry through the Reconstruction of Lake Henry Dam on Dawson Creek, Bon Homme County, South Dakota." Public comments are welcome for a 30-day period.

The draft environmental assessment, prepared by the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish, and Parks (SDGFP), Division of Wildlife, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, analyzes the Department’s proposal to construct a new dam approximately 1,350 feet downstream from an existing breached dam, quadrupling the lake size from 38 acres to 160 acres. The proposal also includes building associated recreational fishing facilities, including a 20-foot wide boat ramp, parking lot, accessible fishing pier on the existing dam embankment, two gravel access roads, 6-foot wide accessible boat dock, and self-contained vault toilet.

The total cost of the project would be close to $2 million. The Department proposes to use a combination of state fishing license funds, community development block grant funds, and federal Sport Fish Restoration funds to pay for the construction. The federal funds are administered by the Fish and Wildlife Service and come from a excise tax on fishing equipment, import duties on tackle and boats, motorboat fuels, and small engine fuel.

Public comment on the proposal and draft environmental assessment will help the Service decide whether to fund the proposed project. The Service also must determine the proposed project’s eligibility for federal funding, assess its character and design and ensure compliance with federal rules and regulations.

"The state has asked the Service to share in the cost of the project by providing money from the Federal Aid Sport Fish Restoration program," said Paul Gertler, Assistant Regional Director for Migratory Birds and State Programs. "Before approving the request, the Service must examine the effects of funding the state’s proposed action or one of several alternative actions, they may also impose certain conditions on the proposal before approving it."

In 1984, the 38-acre Lake Henry was seriously impacted by record level flood waters. The dam was jeopardized by overflow water, seepage, roots from established trees on the embankment and unsuitable core material used in the original design. An engineering study in 1990 concluded the spillway was inadequate to handle flood waters and there were no low-level outlet works for managing the level of the lake. Due to all the problems associated with the safety and the integrity of the dam, in 1994 the SDGFP breached the dam.

"The result of this project would provide local fishing access to the regional area that is currently lacking public fishing sites. For young and elderly anglers, the lack of public fishing access limits their ability to participate. The proposed development is a positive step in responding to the recreational demands and improves the quality of life for residents in the region," said Doug Hansen, Director, Division of Wildlife.

The draft environmental assessment prepared by SDGFP identified five alternatives to consider for rehabilitation of Lake Henry:

Constructing a new dam and new lake as described previously. SDGFP would purchase private property from five known willing sellers for implementation of this alternative.

Reconstructing the existing breached dam. Existing spillway and dam embankment would be removed; the dam would be reconstructed at existing site using native materials.

Constructiing a new lake at an upland location (outside of the floodplain) away from the community of Scottland on property purchased or leased by SDGFP.

Constructing a new lake within another drainage (within the floodplain) away from the community of Scottland on property either purchase or leased by SDGFP.

No project would take place and the current conditions would remain in place.

Detailed information on each alternative is contained in the Service’s environmental assessment. Copies of the document, which include details of the state’s proposed action, alternative actions and decisions to be made by the Service, are available online at The document can also be accessed through the SDGFP Those without internet access may request copies by calling the Services’s Division of Federal Aid, 303-236-4430.  Send comments to: Chief, Division of Federal Aid, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, P.O. Box 25486, Denver, CO 80225

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System which encompasses nearly 540 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 70 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resource offices and 78 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces Federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.