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EPA awards Utah Department of Environmental Quality $959k to restore fisheries, improve water quality and rehabilitate lakes

One project plans to return Pelican Lake to Blue Ribbon fishery status

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Lisa McClain-Vanderpool (

DENVER (July 10, 2019) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has awarded $959,049 to the Utah Department of Environmental Quality (UDEQ) to help protect human health and the environment through a Nonpoint Source Program Clean Water Act (Section 319) grant.  This grant is given to states to implement environmental programs that address various sources of pollution in surface and groundwater in order to meet and maintain water quality standards.

“EPA is partnering with UDEQ and other partners to restore the water quality and the Blue Ribbon fishery of Pelican Lake,” said EPA Regional Administrator Gregory Sopkin. “The water quality of our lakes and streams across the west is a high priority and by working together on these projects, our impact is greater.”

"This year we were able to award funds for multiple excellent projects to help reduce pollution from nonpoint sources in partnership with EPA and other funding agencies,” said Director of Utah’s Water Quality Division Erica Gaddis. “The Pelican Lake project is a great example of partners working together to improve water quality.  All the partners have developed the plan and brought funding to the table, allowing us to implement this project on a much larger scale than any one of our agencies would have been able to on their own.  We hope that these types of partnerships can continue to be developed and utilized in other areas of the state."  

Restoring the fishery is now a priority of Utah Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Wildlife Resources, the project lead, with the goal of returning Pelican Lake to the Blue Ribbon fishery status it once had. "We look forward to restoring Pelican Lake as a great fishing destination for Utahns and visitors from across the U.S. to enjoy," said Director of Utah Division of Wildlife Resources Mike Fowlks. "These partnerships and grants are so important in helping improve habitats so that wildlife can thrive."  

The largest portion of the Utah grant, $426,000, will go to the Pelican Lake Rehabilitation Project which is located 20 miles southwest of Vernal in the Uinta Basin. Pelican Lake is a natural lake, and historically important recreational site, approximately 1700 acres in size, and was a nationally recognized fishery for bluegill and largemouth bass. However, in recent decades the water quality in the lake has become impaired due to elevated pH and phosphorus, and as a result, the fishery has also declined in catch rates and size of the fish. Being a shallow lake makes it very vulnerable to sediment loading from surrounding water bodies. A proliferation of invasive carp has also contributed to an increasing lack of clarity.  The total cost of the project will be about $1,448,000 and will take about 3 years to complete.

In addition to funding the “boots on the ground” local watershed coordinators in six basins around the state, the grant will also fund work that will stabilize the shoreline of Matt Warner Reservoir in order to reduce sediment and phosphorous loading. This will help address harmful algal blooms that have been blamed for the death of cattle in the past.  An information, education and outreach program through Utah State University will also be funded, which includes support of a Citizen Monitoring Program, Youth Outreach Program and Teacher Training Program.

For more information regarding EPA’s Nonpoint Source grant program visit: