John A. Rice

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Prior to the 1950s, the middle Provo River in Utah offered outstanding fish and wildlife habitat. This was due in part to the Provo River freely meandering through the Heber Valley. These bends in the river provided deep holes for fish and a dense streamside forest for many species of birds. This productive habitat was altered in the 1940s and 1950s when the river was dammed, channelized, and forced between dikes (figure 1). These dikes were constructed by the USDI Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) to contain high flows that came from additional water added to the Provo River from transbasin diversions. With the loss of the meandering channel came loss of fish and wildlife habitat. In 1992, Congress created the Utah Reclamation Mitigation and Conservation Commission (Mitigation Commission) to assure that mitigation for the Central Utah Project (CUP) and other Federal reclamation projects in Utah was accomplished. With the creation of the Mitigation Commission, new standards were imposed on mitigation projects that can be summarized as an “ecosystem restoration” standard. With this mandate, the Mitigation Commission was directed to support mitigation projects that integrated multiple aspects of the environment. Fish and riparian habitat in the middle Provo River was severely degraded as the result of earlier actions taken to develop Provo River waters for agricultural, municipal, industrial, and other purposes. Knowing the past productivity of the middle Provo River for fish and wildlife habitat, interest turned to the middle Provo River as a site for CUP mitigation. The Provo River Restoration Project (PRRP) involved removing or setting back most existing flood-control dikes, restoring meanders, and reestablishing a floodplain along the middle Provo River. The project began in 1999 and is anticipated to continue through 2006. In addition to fish and riparian habitat restoration, this project included acquisition of angler access, modification of diversion dams to bypass instream flows, and recreation facilities planning and development.