Better fishing on American Fork Creek

Water rights on creek were transferred to the Division of Wildlife Resources.

AMERICAN FORK CANYON Fishing on American Fork Creek should improve. PacifiCorp Project Manager Robert Atwood recently gave the utility's water rights on the creek to the Division of Wildlife Resources. PacifiCorp turned the water rights over after the utility decided it was no longer economical to operate its American Fork Hydroelectric plant.

American Fork Creek
This stretch of American Fork Creek is adjacent to the powerplant where a man-made barrier was removed. You can see several newly created pools of water in the stream.
Photo by Scott Root

The water rights transfer means up to 50 cfs (cubic feet per second) of stream water is guaranteed to remain in the stream. That guaranteed stream flow will improve habitat for both fish and wildlife.

In addition, two man-made barriers to fish migration (including a four-foot high, 30-foot-wide concrete dam) have been removed from the creek as part of a restoration effort to improve the creek. Removing the two barriers immediately opened up a seven-mile stretch of the creek to fish (the stretch runs from the mouth of American Fork Canyon to Tibble Fork Reservoir).

Removing the barriers has allowed fish to migrate up the stream.

"American Fork Creek is mostly a brown trout fishery, but it's also stocked with rainbow trout," says Scott Root, conservation outreach manager for the DWR. "Some cutthroat trout are also found on the upper stretch of the creek.

"The restoration efforts have created some beautiful, clear pools of water," Root says. "These pools will provide excellent cover and spawning areas for trout. The trout in this section of the creek are easy to see; they're stacked up in the newly-constructed pools of water.

"This project is a great example of public agencies and private organizations working together for a good cause," Root says. "In this case, that good cause will benefit both trout and anglers."

The project was a cooperative effort among PacifiCorp; federal and state agencies, including the DWR; American Whitewater; and Trout Unlimited.

American Fork Creek is in American Fork Canyon in north-central Utah.

Plant history

The American Fork Hydroelectric plant is 100 years old. The facility generated one megawatt of electricity by diverting stream flows out of the creek and into a pipeline that was two miles long.

Rocky Mountain Power (a division of PacifiCorp) has owned and operated the American Fork Hydroelectric project since 1913.

The 12,000-foot long steel flow-line pipe carried water from the creek diversion high along the north slope of the canyon. There the water descended into the plant where the force of the falling water generated electricity.

The pipeline leaked several times and had been damaged by the elements of nature, including landslides. Over time, the cost of maintaining and repairing the facility and pipeline increased to the point that it was no longer economical to operate the facility.

The pipeline that ran along the north side of the canyon has been removed.

What will happen to the building?

The title to the power plant facility has been given to the U.S. Forest Service.

"We see great value in the facility as an historical building," says John Logan, a representative for the USFS. "We're still discussing several options. One possibility is highlighting the history of the facility by using the building as a museum."