Plan would protect Provo River’s fish population

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UTAH COUNTY -- The only area in the world where you can find the endangered June suckers is in the Provo River or Utah Lake, and for nearly half a decade, plans have been in the works to save the fish.

But project managers believe a new draft of a plan to restore the Provo delta might be the answer to save the June suckers.

For almost a decade, Michael Mills, a recovery coordinator for the project, has been working to protect June suckers in Utah Lake.

The fish have been listed as an endangered species for thirty years.

“Due to hundreds of years of habitat modifications on the lower Provo River, the little larva fish, the little larva June suckers, can't survive in the lower Provo River,” Mill said.

In attempts to save the endangered fish, The Department of the Interior is working with local conservation groups. They released a revised plan Monday to restore the Provo River delta in the hopes the new draft will smooth over concerns local landowners had about government takeover of private land.

“It has taken a lot of time and a lot of work but in the end it was worth it because we weren't in a place two years ago where we could have gone forward with the project,” Mills said.

The new draft has three different plans to save the June suckers. The preferred option would mostly impact the northern part of the river delta but addresses the needs of local farmers.

“It takes the land that's not necessarily good for agriculture and some of the wetland that they really don't use now... they're able to keep the land that they like to farm and raise cows and hay on,” Mills said.

Alternative B would also add more trails along the Provo River and create a way to prevent larva June suckers from getting stuck in the mile and a half of still water at the bottom of the Provo River. But why go to such great lengths to save these fish?

“For a lot of us it's a matter of complying with the law: The Endangered Species Act," Mills said. "In order not to jeopardize water supply for the Wasatch Front, we have to make progress to recovery of the June sucker.”

Mills said a decision won't be made for at least another year, and the soonest construction would begin is in 2016.