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Provo • Ben Allen says efforts to save the June sucker could kill his business.
Allen, owner of CLAS Ropes Course along the Provo River, said the plan to divert the waterway and create a new delta at Skipper Bay to the north would essentially end his river cruises, as well as hurt downstream farmers who rely on the river for irrigation.
"All of that is going to be gone," Allen said.
Wildlife officials say no formal plans for creating the delta have been set, but making the Provo River safe enough for the endangered fish to breed is an important step in the recovery process.
"The recovery plan for the June sucker calls for spawning in the Provo River," said Reed Harris, director of the state's June sucker Recovery Implementation Program.
The federal Utah Reclamation Mitigation and Conservation Commission and the state are working on plans to reroute the Provo River northward for its last mile to create a new delta.
Mark Holden, the commission's project manager, said the existing channel does not afford young June suckers with the food and protection they need when they drift downriver after hatching.
Holden and Harris said the channel, when Utah Lake's level rises in the spring and early summer, becomes a cold death trap for the suckers, which have no vegetation to eat or hide in from predators.
A delta a fan-shaped deposit of sediment with channels running through it is a safer haven for the young fish.
Wildlife officials created a similar habitat on Hobble Creek in Springville for the suckers, but Holden said that is only a backup to the Provo River, which is part of the fish's natural habitat.
Still, Allen, armed with signatures from 700 others, said diverting the river preliminary plans call for either maintaining a light flow down the channel or filling it in and turning it into a trail would sink his business and deprive farmers of their purchased water rights.
In addition to renting out canoes to people in his ropes classes, Allen runs river cruises on Halloween and Christmas, with decorations along the bank and visitors a pirate at Halloween and a Santa at Christmas coming out to the boats.
Allen said he and his allies would rather see the flow kept to about 45 cubic feet per second nine times more than proposed to keep the river usable.
Allen presented his petition during a recent open house at Utah Lake State Park. He said officials have turned a deaf ear to his concerns.
It's a charge Mike Weland, the commission's executive director, emphatically denies.
"There is no factual basis for that," Weland said. "We have had public meetings, and Mr. Allen has attended them."
Harris said another meeting is planned for January. Weland and Harris noted the plans remain in the preliminary stages.