$10 million investment working to safeguard June sucker and improve recreational opportunities
Date: Thursday, March 2, 2023
SALT LAKE CITY — Assistant Secretary for Water and Science Tanya Trujillo joined partners in Utah today to celebrate a major milestone in the Provo River Delta Restoration project. Supported by a $10 million investment from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Provo River has now been diverted into channels and ponds constructed over the past three years, connecting the river with a restored delta and with Utah Lake. The new delta will support habitat recovery for the imperiled June sucker, provide and improve recreational experiences and help safeguard safe, reliable water supplies for local communities.
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law also provides $40 million for the Central Utah Project Completion Act to complete the Utah Lake System pipeline, in order to expedite delivery of 60,000 acre-feet of municipal and industrial water to Salt Lake and Utah Counties.
"Accelerated by historic investments from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we are able to celebrate a major milestone for the Central Utah Project Completion Act,” said Assistant Secretary Trujillo. “The reconnection of the Provo River to the delta will help to safeguard the threatened June sucker, expand recreational opportunities for community residents and accelerate efforts underway to expand access to clean, reliable water throughout the region.”
The milestone comes as the Endangered Species Act (ESA) turns 50 years old in 2023. Throughout the year, the Department is celebrating the importance of the ESA in preventing the extinction of imperiled species, promoting the recovery of wildlife and conserving the habitats upon which they depend.
On Jan. 4, 2021, the June sucker was downlisted from endangered to threatened under the Endangered Species Act, largely due to ongoing efforts — like the Provo River Delta project — by various partnering agencies to help the species recover. The restored delta will provide habitat for adult June suckers to spawn and for young June suckers to find safety from predators.
“Turning the Provo River into the re-created delta is a huge step forward in the effort to recover the threatened June sucker,” said Central Water Conservancy District General Manager Gene Shawcroft. “The Delta project has been a long time coming and when completed will open the bottle neck that has been holding the June Sucker Recovery Implementation Program back from the final steps of successfully re-establishing all June sucker life cycles. The Delta will provide the opportunity for successful spawning, rearing and recruiting of new June suckers. The Central Utah Water Conservancy District has been a leader in the June sucker program from its inception and continues to serve as a program partner and a Joint Lead Agency in the Provo River Delta Project.”
“The release of water into the Provo River Delta Restoration Project area represents a significant milestone in both the project and the recovery of June sucker,” said Utah Reclamation Mitigation and Conservation Commission Executive Director Mike Mills. “While a great deal of work remains before the delta is finished, we are now even closer to providing essential habitat for June sucker and creating a unique natural area that will benefit all who use Utah Lake.”
Assistant Secretary Trujillo joined project staff, crews and volunteers on Thursday afternoon to celebrate and watch the diversion. Public access to the project area will remain closed until project completion and the area is reopened in 2024. Along with helping June sucker recovery, the project will provide an improved ecosystem and additional recreational opportunities. Trails, trailhead parking areas, restrooms, non-motorized boat launches, fishing platforms, interpretive features, a wildlife viewing tower and a new park are all included in the Provo River Delta project plans.
“By taking an ecosystem-based approach grounded in sound science, over the past 20 years, the June Sucker Recovery Implementation Program has made tremendous strides towards recovering one of the most imperiled species native to Utah,” said June Sucker Recovery Implementation Program Director Chris Keleher. “The effectiveness of the program would not be possible without each of the partners working within their respective authorities to implement actions to address the threats to June suckers. A major threat has been the lack of habitat for early life stages of the fish to grow and avoid predators. Thanks to the joint-lead agencies, the restoration of the Provo River Delta project completes this essential element to recovery.”
More information is available on the project’s website.