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If you build it, they will come

Posted: Monday, Dec 30th, 2013

After six years of planning, the Upper Bear River Trout Unlimited fish ladder project was completed in mid-December at the old City of Evanston diversion. (HERALD PHOTO/Mark Tesoro)

EVANSTON — The Upper Bear River Trout Unlimited (UBRTU) fish ladder at the old City of Evanston intake was recently completed. The project, located about 13 miles south of Evanston on the Bear River, was hampered by the frigid temperatures and ice in early December.

The river was pretty much frozen over, according to Rick Slagowski, president of the UBRTU chapter. After the Evanston City Council passed a resolution in late October, the chapter scrambled to get the concrete block from Ellingford Bros. to the site.

“We would have preferred to get in the water earlier in the fall but needed to get some loose ends tied up,” Nick Walrath, Green River project manager and TU staffer for Wyoming, said.

The fish ladder project is the culmination of over six years of planning by the local TU chapter. The project started with the idea that the chapter wanted to make it easier for native fish to migrate up and down river.

The chapter worked closely with Uinta County School District No. 1 and Derek Haider’s seventh grade Challenge Science class’ “Adopt a Trout” program to track fish in the river. Dozens of native Bonneville Cutthroat trout and Bluehead Suckers have been implanted with radio transmitters in the past three years. Walrath, along with students from Haider’s class and chapter members, have tracked the fish each year.

“The city inlet posed a major obstacle for all but the biggest fish,” Slagowski said. “Building the fish ladder will open up over 65 miles of river and tributaries to migrating fish.”

The chapter had plenty of hurdles to get over in order to get the project completed.

“The City of Evanston has been amazing to work with throughout this project,” Slagowski said. “We approached the city very early on in the project and from the beginning they were very eager to help.”

The chapter also worked with landowners, water users, local businesses, Uinta County and engineers in order to get the project off the ground.

In addition to local fundraising for the ladder, the chapter also received grants from the US Division of Fish and Wildlife, Wyoming Game and Fish and Wyoming Wildlfe Natural Resource Trust Fund and Embrace a Stream.

The heavy lifting in the project, actually moving dirt, blocks and boulders, was done by Flare Construction and project manager Brett Carlson. Carlson ran a large trackhoe in subzero temperatures for nearly a week.

Project engineer Jim Broderick of Rocky Mountain Ranch Management toured the site on the final day of construction.

“It’s amazing to see how quickly Brett did the work in such miserable conditions,” Broderick said.

“The fish can start using the ladder as soon as the bottom of the ladder settles,” Walrath said. “It will be exciting to track fish up and through the ladder.”

The UBRTU chapter is currently looking at other projects on the Bear River, including removal of a large push up dam. That project would restore another 27 miles of river to migrating fish.

For the complete article see the 12-31-2013 issue.

Click here to purchase an electronic version of the 12-31-2013 paper.

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