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Comments sought on Mill Creek dam, climbing site
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Comment is being accepted on proposals to remove an old dam and part of a boardwalk in Mill Creek Canyon and to demolish the Grit Mill at the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon to make way for a parking lot for rock climbers.

The U.S. Forest Service's Salt Lake Ranger District is seeking input on issues that should be considered in separate environmental evaluations of the two projects. Participation in these "scoping" processes is vital for interested individuals, noted Salt Lake District Ranger Cathy Kahlow, because it is prerequisite to being eligible to formally object to the decisions that ultimately are made.

In both cases, there is a 30-day period to comment after a legal notice is published in The Salt Lake Tribune. The deadline to address the Mill Creek Canyon dam removal and stream restoration project is Sept. 11. The legal notice for the Grit Mill proposal is expected to appear soon.

The Mill Creek Canyon project is being proposed to restore populations of native Bonneville cutthroat trout in the central Wasatch Range, to improve creek habitat and reduce long-term maintenance costs for the Forest Service.

Kahlow said the plan is to remove a 12-foot-high dam, originally built in the early 1900s to help generate hydroelectric power. But that use has long passed. From the mid-1950s until the mid-80s, the state Division of Water Resources used the pond upstream of the dam as a fishing area. The Forest Service has dredged the pond area three times since 1993, but it keeps filling up with sediment.

Removing the dam will require reshaping up to 300 feet of stream channel, returning it to a more-normal slope that will improve fish passage. That will require removal of an aging fishing pier and boardwalk, Kahlow said, and construction of a new walkway made of more sustainable materials with pullouts for fishing and stream access. It will be accessible for people with disabilities, she noted.

The project also includes removal of a concrete weir and channel modifications in the Porter Fork tributary to Mill Creek and future work to restore the cutthroat trout and revegetate picnic areas.

Increasing interest in rock climbing on the granite faces at the base of Little Cottonwood Canyon is driving the Forest Service's proposal to improve the site around the abandoned Grit Mill. The Forest Service's proposed project is to remove the long-abandoned mill, develop a parking lot to take cars off the Little Cottonwood Canyon highway and develop a system of trails that would provide access to popular climbing areas. The agency also would close a number of informal trails that climbers have cut through the brush at the base of the rock faces, pathways prone to erosion.

Kahlow said a pre-scoping process attracted comments from three agencies, 11 organizations and 26 individuals.

That led to the development of two alternatives that will be evaluated in the environmental assessment — one to do nothing, another to develop climbing-access trails from the Little Cottonwood Canyon park-and-ride lot without building an additional parking lot at the Grit Mill, several hundred yards uphill.

Detailed project information is available at http://www.fs.usda.gov/projects/uwcnf/landmanagement/projects.

mikeg@sltrib.com

Twitter: @sltribmikeg —

To comment

I For either project, emails should be sent to comments-intermtn-wasatch-cache-saltlake@fs.fed.us. Written comments should be mailed or hand delivered, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., to Cathy Kahlow, Salt Lake Ranger District, 6944 S. 3000 East, Cottonwood Heights, UT 84121.

Public input • Forest Service doing environmental studies on proposed projects.
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