SISTERS, Ore. -

It's muddy, messy, splashy work on Jack Creek, but boy will the bull trout be grateful.

"We removed an irrigation dam, now we're adding gravel to the stream, grading it to where we want it to be, so fish can swim up and downstream," Sisters Ranger District fish biologist Mike Riehle said Wednesday.

For about 80 years, getting around the dam on the creek outside Black Butte Ranch was nearly impossible for some fish trying to return to headwaters to spawn.

"For juveniles, they can't jump that high," Riehle said. "Bull trout are a threatened species. This project and this creek is very important to recovery of bull trout in the basin."

The irrigation dam diverted the water from the creek to farms for decades, but farmers haven't used it in a while. They now have a new water source, and the Forest Service is removing the dam, hoping to aid the struggling species.

"This is one of the major spawning streams in the Metolius Basin for bull trout," Riehle said. "It constitutes as 20 to 25 percent of all the spawning in the basin, and the majority of the fish spawn above this project."

The project wrapped up Wednesday afternoon with the placement of a couple more logs into the stream and in the coming years officials hope more fish will return. Each year biologists count the number of fish returning to spawn above and below the site of where the dam used to be.