FARMINGTON — A new sanctuary for birds is being created in the wetlands of Farmington Bay.
The $250,000 project will help to revitalize the area and is being funded with money from an oil spill settlement with Chevron.
A hole the size of a quarter allowed 800 barrels of oil to ooze undetected for some 10 hours into the Red Butte Creek in the foothills of Salt Lake City and downstream to the lake at Liberty Park in June 2010. Some of the oil was ferried to the Jordan River, a stretch of which had to be closed for public health reasons.
Less than six months later, Chevron experienced another spill in the same pipe upstream from the first spill — but none of that oil made it into the waterway.
In the aftermath, Chevron was fined by the federal government and paid out $1 million to Salt Lake City for lost use of the stream. The company paid another $500,000 to the state in penalties and paid more than $900,000 to residents and others affected by the spill.
Even though none of the oil from that spill reached Farmington Bay, Chevron was also forced to pay the state $3 million for water improvement projects.
Rich Hansen, manager of the Farmington Bay waterfowl management area, released dozens of pheasants into the area Thursday. They are among many species of birds that will benefit from this project.
Workers are using machines to create a 3-mile-long dike to trap water in the 200-acre area that was considered poor habitat for birds.
"By building this dike and creating this impoundment, it gives us the ability to control the water level and create great habitat for waterfowl and shorebirds," Hansen said.
After the scrapers finish this weekend, they'll open up six water gates which will flood the area with about 6 inches of water in a few weeks.
"This will provide food and a loafing area for tens of thousands of birds," Hansen explained.
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.
The waterfowl management area also has a $170,000 grant to clean silt out of water channels, and a $9,200 grant for oil booms and safety equipment in the event of an oil spill out.