Construction crews last week began the second half of the First Street restoration project of the North Platte River, a Casper official said.

"The changes should be we will have higher water quality, the water should be cleaner," said Jolene Martinez, assistant to the city manager.

"We should have a lot better fishing," she added.

The restoration from the First Street bridge to the BNSF bridge includes shifting the banks from the east side to the west side of the river, and shifting storm sewers with their untreated runoff to a new wetland instead of having the storm water going directly into the river, Martinez said. "Those wetlands filter and decrease water pollution; they filter the water pollution from the storm water drains."

The crews will use wood to rebuild the west side bank to stop erosion that causes water pollution, she said.

Tom Morton, Townsquare Media

They also will remove Russian olive plants, an invasive species.

The project was supposed to be completed last year, but crews uncovered the remnants of a possible former coking plant and contamination flowing into the river. That required work that delayed the First Street bridge downstream project until now.

Last year, the project planners didn't expect to find the coking plant surprise, Martinez said. The planners don't have any indications of similar sites along the banks now under reconstruction, but anything could happen, she said.

Next spring, the project will continue with a rebuilt trail, boat ramp and small parking lot, Martinez said.

Besides the city as the lead facilitator of the project, Martinez said it is working with the Natrona County Weed and Pest District, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the Two Fly Foundation, Plains All American Pipeline, and other government and business agencies.

The pipeline company is on call to supply booms and other equipment in case crews uncover pollution leaking into the river, she said.

The ongoing restoration is fixing the damage done more than a century ago. A hundred years ago, a survey of the rivers in the United States found the North Platte in Casper was the worst with refineries, slaughterhouses and other sources of degradation.

The First Street bridge project marks the fourth of seven proposed river rehabilitation projects to undo the past damage.

The first three were at Morad Park, Martinez said.

The proposed three remaining projects would be from the regional water treatment plant to the Wyoming Boulevard Bridge, the Bryan Stock Trail bridge to the Town of Evansville, and from the Mike Lansing Field to the Bryan Stock Trail bridge.

The project is expected to be completed by early December, Martinez said.

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