River Restoration plans demo project in Helper, downtown near Ivy Street
Design work on a demonstration project on the Price River in Helper is more than 80 percent complete, and work on the first small step in the transformation of the river could begin this fall or winter.
Crystal Young, a hydrologist with the specialty engineering firm River Restoration, told the city council at its last meeting that the preferred site is near the Ivy Street Bridge.
Those who have walked the river trail know that this is a place where the current is channeled between two steep banks. Because of dense underbrush on the banks, the river below is audible but barely visible and not easily accessible along much of the stretch.
The idea of changing the river from a straight channel into a recreational centerpiece for the city began during the administration of former Mayor Dean Armstrong about two years ago.
Now Ed Chavez, who succeeded Armstrong, has said he is all in favor of continuing the effort.
Funding for the demonstration project is largely in place. During the summer of 2012, the city secured grants of $36,000 from the Recreation/Transportation Special Service District and $35,000 from the Utah Division of Water Quality. The city has pledged $12,000 of in-kind services.
Once the city approves the demonstration design, it can be put out for bid. This pattern of design, recommendation and approval will apply to future work.
Young said her firm has identified five reaches along three miles of the river between the Martin area and downtown. This work could be done in two major phases. The duration, however, is subject to the pace and the amount of grant money that can raised from public and private partners, she explained.
There are plenty of recreation groups, federal and state environmental funding agencies, for example, but Helper will be competing with other projects for limited funds, Young noted.
She told the council there's a meeting of the state Department of Environmental Quality on Oct. 23 in Logan, and advised that the city could make its case for the project there.
Considerable work in environmental enhancement of the river is already under way as part of the city's extensive overhaul of its infrastructure. Although this has added to the overall cost of the $19 million rebuild, those costs are likely to be recouped from future enviromental grant funds, according to engineers overseeing the infrastructure project.
During the planning process, the city will also have to decide just how much ongoing maintenance expense it is prepared to bear. A patch of lawn, for example, needs to be watered, weeded and mowed, Young said.