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Oil spill payment funds new bird sanctuary

By Jed Boal | Posted - Nov 15th, 2013 @ 8:35am

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FARMINGTON — More than three years ago, a massive oil spill polluted Red Butte Creek in Salt Lake City. Today, money from a settlement with Chevron is helping to revitalize wetlands in Farmington Bay.

Even though none of the oil from that spill reached Farmington Bay, Chevron was forced to pay the state $3 million for water improvement projects. A quarter-million dollars of that money is being used to create a new sanctuary for birds.

Rich Hansen released dozens of pheasants into the Farmington Bay Waterfowl Management Area. They are among many species of birds that will benefit from this project.

Strippers are creating a 3-mile long dyke to trap water in the 200-acre area that was considered poor habitat for birds.

"By building this dyke and creating this impoundment, it gives us the ability to control the water level and create great habitat for waterfowl and shorebirds," Hansen said.

In June 2010, more than 33,000 gallons of Chevron oil spilled into Red Butte Creek. Chevron was fined, forced to pay for cleanup, and also made to pay for water quality projects like this.

The waterfowl management area also has:
  • A $170,000 grant to clean silt out of water channels
  • A $9,200 grant for oil booms and safety equipment in the event of an oil spill

"This will provide food and a loafing area for tens of thousands of birds," Hansen explained.

After the scrapers finish this weekend, they'll open up six watergates which will flood the area with about 6 inches of water in a few weeks. By next summer, birds will be flourishing in the entire area.

"When we got all of the project design done and I saw what we could do with it, it was really exciting," Hansen said.

It should be a better area for the birds, and people too. Birdwatchers, hunters, and photographers will all notice more wildlife.

"It's going to make a world of difference out here," Hansen said.


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