Utah Lake improvement project removes carp to freshen water

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Thousands of fish being removed from Utah Lake. They are continuing to work through the winter while the lake is frozen over. (Photo courtesy of The Utah Lake Commission)
Thousands of fish being removed from Utah Lake. The removal project continues through the winter while the lake is frozen over. (Photo courtesy of The Utah Lake Commission)

Hundreds of thousands of carp are being removed from Utah Lake in order to help revive the lake’s natural habitat.

Utah Lake used to be a beautiful fresh water lake for the Utah Valley area until the carp population exploded, causing the lake to become dirty.

Michael Mills, coordinator for the June sucker fish recovery project, said carp were not originally found in the lake.

“Carp were brought in by the federal government in the late 1800s,” Mills said. “Carp were brought in as a replacement for the fish that were dying.”

Mills said the warm, shallow waters are an ideal habitat for carp, contributing to the population explosion.

Before the carp removal projects began, Mills said about 80 percent of the lake’s fish population was carp. This was one of the big reasons why the lake’s habitat has turned to a dirty algae-based system.

He said if they can successfully remove the carp, people will see a big change in Utah Lake.

The carp removal project will increase the water quality, according to Mills.

“The goal was to remove five million pounds of fish for seven years,” said Reed Price, the director of the Utah Lake Commission.

Four years ago, when the project began, they were unable to remove that much fish because of the learning curve, Price said.

Price said unless they are able to secure additional funding, they anticipate that the project will last as long as 11 years. If they were to secure additional funding, they could finish it in three years.

Aside from the removal of carp in Utah Lake, the Utah Lake Commission is working on improving the lake’s ecosystem. One way they are doing that is the June sucker fish recovery project Mills is working on.

“Our goal is to make it so the June sucker no longer has to be protected by the Endangered Species Act,” Mills said.

Price said there are other improvements to be made to the lake.

“The Utah Lake Master Plan outlines the creation of additional access points, a trail system around the lake and water quality improvements,” Price said.

To see exactly how the carp are removed from the lake, check out the video on Provo mayor John Curtis’ blog.

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