724th Engineer Battalion Combat Corps (Wheeled)
Guard soldiers from Company B, 724th Engineer Battalion, teamed with the 1st Bn., 147th Aviation Regiment, to revive trout habitats in the Brule River, a north-flowing river fed from cold spring water near Solon Springs. The Brule was stocked with trout for 100 years, but stocking ended in the 1970s. The population remained stable, but there was no increase. In order to reproduce in high numbers, trout and salmon need good spawning beds, usually made of gravel, where eggs are laid and secured. The Brule, a wide, flat river with very little gravel on the bottom, had few deep "pockets" for the trout to rest in. Several members of the Brule River Sportsmen Club got together and, using their own money for supplies, built two wing dams. These dams are made of rock layers that angle into the river forcing the water to move swiftly between the walls of rock, carving out a deep channel. Then they lined the bottom with three sizes of gravel. The biggest obstacle was that the areas picked for the streambed rehabilitation were inaccessible by road.
The solution was to ask the National Guard to drop the gravel by air. UH-60 Black Hawks carrying eight-ton buckets of gravel were attached to the helicopters by 75- and 100-foot slings. Teamwork was essential. When the aircraft started their descents to the river, workers had to get out of the water and away from the Black Hawks to lessen the risk of becoming human lightening rods. Once each bucket hit the water and the static electricity was discharged, workers slogged back through the stream to the bucket, released the catch and moved away again so the helicopter could ascend, releasing gravel as the bucket traveled upward. After the gravel was dumped into the river, engineers and fishermen distributed the gravel along the riverbed.
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