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New plants spruce Provo River's look
Revegetation is part of repairs to canyon roads

PROVO CANYON -- The trees, grasses and shrubs are in. Now fences will go up and with them the plea to fishermen -- tread lightly.

As part of restoration plans for the Provo River, following the controversial road building program in the canyon, about $200,000 was set aside to re-vegetate damaged river banks.Most of the revegetation work has been completed, said Charlie Thompson, aquatics manager for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, "Now we'll put up some temporary fencing to help protect the work we've done. We don't want to undo all the work before it's had a chance to get established."

Looking at another project dealing with the river, Thompson said early signs are that the tree trunks planted in the river the past few years seem to be working.

"We'll be doing some more checks, but for right now we think they're quite successful," he said. "We've seen young-of-the-year in places we haven't seen them before. Also, fishermen in these areas seem to be doing well."

The project, started in 1997, involved anchoring large tree trunks in water along the shoreline of the river.

"We know fish like woody vegetation. It would be nice if we could drop a few more trees naturally into the water. What we've done is create some good cover and pocket water areas for the fish. These are some good benefits for the fish," he added.

The logs have been home to young fish, mainly. The idea being that with some protection the little fish will be able to grow into bigger ones.

"The Provo River is an excellent fishery," said Thompson. "The one thing it lacks is habitat for juvenile or young-of-the-year. We felt this was one place we could improve the river."

The Provo River is Utah's most popular flowing fishing spot.

"What we found in our studies is that the small fish stayed in the vegetation along the banks during the summer. In the winter, when the vegetation is gone, there's no place for the smaller fish. They are very vulnerable at this point," Thompson added.

The revegetation program involved the replanting of native plants. These included red osier dogwood, golden currant, woods rose and sandbar willow. These are plants that are able to adapt to environmental conditions between the road and the river that were impacted by construction.

The temporary fencing will be placed along sections to delineate where new plants are growing and where it's safe to walk to the river's edge without walking over the plants.

The fencing will be sturdy enough to provide control, but will only be in place until the plants have had a chance to become established. There will be openings where access to the river is possible.

"At some of the openings we will install steps constructed of treated timbers," said Thompson. "This will enable anglers to exit and enter the river safely. Some of the places used by fishermen now are steep. Fishermen have created big gullies trying to get up and down.

"Our plans are to place two to four stairs along the river now and add more at a later date if they're successful."

Materials for the steps were purchased by the Wildlife Habitat Authorization funds. Each year sportsmen must purchase a habitat permit before they are able to buy a hunting and/or fishing license. The $6 fee is used for habitat enhancement and access rights.

According to DWR officials, once the new plants are established, they will become part of the riparian vegetation corridor along the river.

Riparian plants are those along river banks, lake shorelines, ponds and wetlands that require moisture to survive. The riparian vegetation forms a buffer between the water and land, filtering out pollutants, chemicals and sediments that might end up polluting the water.

Thompson said that fishing along the Provo River has been rated excellent over the past two months, even though the river has been running higher and faster than normal.