PROVO, Utah (ABC4) – After more than a decade of planning and coordination, construction of the 260-acre Provo River Delta project has begun. 

According to the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, DWR, the Provo River Delta project will restore the interface between the Lower Provo River and Utah Lake as another step in the effort to recover the endangered June sucker.

Courtesy: Utah Division of Wildlife

The June sucker is a fish species native to Utah Lake and is not found naturally anywhere else in the world, according to the DWR. 

The June sucker is currently listed as “Endangered” under the Endangered Species Act.

The Provo River is the main spawning site for the June sucker. 

The project is located a half-mile north of Utah Lake State Park and is estimated to take about five years to complete. 

Utah Reclamation Mitigation and Conservation Commission tells ABC4, crews started prep work for the project in March of 2020 with excavation work beginning in June of 2020.

Crews will put in an excavating system of braided waterways and wetlands into which the last mile and a half of the Lower Provo River will be diverted. 

This constructed system will allow for Utah Lake and Provo River flows to meet and mingle. 

“In 2022, the northern half of Skipper Bay dike, which was initially constructed in the 1940s to disconnect land east of it from Utah Lake, will be lowered and most of the Lower Provo River’s flow will be diverted north of its current location into a new channel. The Provo River and Utah Lake will once again be interconnected through a delta, providing essential habitat for the survival of the June sucker,” DWR states. 

The DWR says the current river channel at the Provo River will continue to receive a portion of Provo River flow and a small dam will be constructed downstream of the Provo Center Street bridge. Officials say the dam will maintain a relatively constant water elevation year-round with an aeration system being installed to improve water quality and aesthetics. 

These features are scheduled to begin construction in 2023–2024. 

“With the Provo River Delta Restoration Project, we are attempting to restore the natural conditions that existed where the Provo River entered Utah Lake,” Michael Mills with Utah Reclamation Mitigation and Conservation Commission tells ABC4. “This restoration project will not only restore conditions that will be supportive of the June sucker, but also other species that utilize Utah Lake and the Provo River.” 

The Mitigation Commission is the agency funding and overseeing the construction of the Provo River Delta. The project is being done as part of the June Sucker Recovery Implementation Program, which involves several other state, local, and federal agencies.

“As part of the project we also hope to enhance recreational opportunities in the area through the creation of additional trails and access points,” Mills adds. 

When the project is completed and the delta restored, it will provide habitat conditions essential to the survival of the young June sucker. 

The DWR shares that the June sucker is an indicator species, which means that when the species is not doing well, this indicates that the ecosystem that it depends upon is similarly not doing well. 

The Provo River Delta project is not only helpful to the fish but also to people. The project will provide an improved ecosystem and additional recreational opportunities for Utahns and visitors. 

Trails, trailhead parking areas, restrooms, non-motorized boat launches, fishing platforms, interpretive features, a viewing tower, and a new park are all included in the Provo River Delta project plans, the DWR shares.

The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources took to Facebook saying, “Strange cargo, comin’ through!  We’ve been busy loading and transporting tree trunks and stumps that will become habitat features at the Provo River Delta Restoration Project.” 

Utahns who want to learn more about the Provo River Delta restoration Project can take a tour on the second Saturdays of the month beginning April 10th. Masks will be required and social distancing guidelines will be followed.