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About 80 old cars removed from Blacksmith Fork River in restoration project

NIBLEY, Cache County — For decades, the Blacksmith Fork River has been lined with old cars used to shore up the banks of the river in times of flooding. But these cars are falling apart and rusting away.

As part of a $10 million restoration project, crews are removing dozens of the clunkers, which they hope will make the river look nicer and more safely secure the shore.

Work on the project got underway in January and is expected to wrap up toward the end of the year. Of the $10 million cost, about $8 million came from federal funds.

Workers have been digging out and filling in the riverbed while strengthening the banks. But a lot of the work includes clearing out the old clunkers that were used as a cheap form of flood control.

"You had banks like this eroding away, and it was a lot cheaper to take a car and tie it to the bank with a thick cable than it was to do a rock protection like this," said Josh Runhaar with Cache County Development Services. “We’ve got cars scattered up and down this river system that we’ve been pulling out.”

Crews have pulled about 50 cars out of one site and about 30 from another. Runhaar said there are still many more left, and many that they won't get to.

It's a costly process that can actually destabilize the bank, but the county was able to do it right because project restoration funding was approved after the flooding of 2011.

"We had to put over 900 sandbags down here when the river flooded" in 2011, said resident Jodi Barnes.

Homeowners in the area say there's now a good chance they won't have to deal with that again.

"You want your place to look good," said resident Kendal Welker. "You want it to last."

Crews have also put in vortex weirs to keep the river to the center of the canal and away from the rock walls.

Runhaar said his crews don’t have the time or money to get everything out of the river, “but hopefully when we are done, we’ll have a much better river system that runs through this part of the Cache Valley.”

Email: manderson@deseretnews.com