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CREWS TRYING TO REVIVE BEAR RIVER BIRD REFUGE FROM RUIN OF '83 FLOOD

Hanging around the office of Al Trout is like being in the Bates Motel - stuffed birds everywhere.

Trout is the manager of the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, and he has stuffed birds lurking about in his Brigham City office, just like the birds in Alfred Hitchcock's movie "Psycho."He has paper piled on his desk, and he is busy on the telephone. But get him out of the office and onto the refuge and he forgets about his pencil job.

"Look over there," he said. "It's beautiful."

The refuge is located about 15 miles west of Brigham City. The wetlands attract millions of birds each year to spend time on the marshes during migrations.

The U.S. Congress set aside the 65,000 acres of wetlands back in 1928 for birds to rest, breed and feed.

But the floods of 1983 poured water over the entire area, and the government and local volunteers are trying to put the land back together.

"We're trying to get things started and rolling again," said Trout.

Volunteers were on the job Tuesday picking up the debris from the old headquarters building, which was destroyed by the flood. "They're really terrific. They're saving us money," said Trout. "Without them (volunteers), we wouldn't have what we have now."

Currently, bird watchers can go into the refuge and see thousands of birds. Pelicans are plentiful and in a couple of months, tourists will be able to see whistling swans. Trout said he expects about 16,000 swans to fly into the refuge come October and November.

To help heal the wounds of the floods, Trout said Congress appropriated $4 million to restore, expand and enhance the refuge.

In restoring the land, Trout said that money will be used to build dikes, canals and water control devices. He said the project should be completed in about two years.

He said the new dikes should improve the refuge because they will give the ability to control and manage high-water years.

Money has also been set aside to purchase another 17,000 acres of land to house a visitor center and refuge headquarters building. Those buildings will be constructed above the flood line, Trout said.

The manager also said that he hopes another 22,000 acres of easement can be negotiated with private landowners.

The Bear River is the refuge's lifeline, and about 50 miles of dikes have been built to keep the water dammed into the marshes.

Trout said the refuge is the largest bird habitat in Utah and "supports an abundance of bird life unparallel to anyplace else."

In the 1950s, Trout said, about 1 million ducks migrated at the refuge. But numbers have dwindled due to disease and encroachment.