DWR shuts down fishing at Panguitch Lake due to damaged dam

Apr 10, 2024, 10:08 AM | Updated: 4:14 pm

Fishing at Panguitch Lake is closed until further notice. (Utah Division of Wildlife Resources)...

Fishing at Panguitch Lake is closed until further notice. (Utah Division of Wildlife Resources)

(Utah Division of Wildlife Resources)

PANGUITCH, Garfield County — The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources issued an emergency fishing closure at Panguitch Lake on Wednesday, which is effective immediately and remains in place “until further notice.”

The closure comes after damage was discovered on the Panguitch Lake Dam on Monday.

“Public safety is a top priority for us, and we want to deter anglers and others from visiting the area at this time,” said DWR Director J. Shirley. The lake is a popular fishing spot in the region and is home to rainbow trout, Bear Lake cutthroat trout and tiger trout.

The Garfield County Sheriff’s Office posted a “level 2 emergency situation” on Tuesday, meaning people in the area should be prepared and alert for evacuation due to a potential dam failure. Deputies also posted an evacuation map should people need to leave the area.

“It is a precautionary measure aimed at ensuring the safety and well-being of all residents in the vicinity,” the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office said.

The National Weather Service issued a flash flood watch due to the potential dam failure, which covers parts of the southern mountains and upper Sevier River valleys, including communities like Alton, Kane County; Brian Head; Circleville, Piute County; Koosharem, Sevier County; and Panguitch. It remains in place “until further notice.”

Residents of Panguitch and the surrounding areas are urged to be prepared for a possible evacuation if the situation is evaluated at level 3. The office said residents should be prepared in the following ways:

  • Stay Informed: Follow updates from official channels. We will communicate through all available resources, including reverse 911 calls, social media platforms, and local news outlets.
  • Evacuation Plan: Familiarize yourself with evacuation routes. Should evacuation be necessary, residents should proceed east towards Hatch as the primary evacuation route.
  • Emergency Kits: Ensure your emergency kits are ready and contain essential items such as water, food, medications, and important documents.
  • Inform Others: Please take some time to notify family, friends, and neighbors in the area to ensure they are prepared and have any assistance that may be needed.

“Please know that if a failure occurs, we feel there is plenty of time to conduct an orderly evacuation before the water reaches Panguitch,” the sheriff’s office said.

The lake was a natural lake that was turned into a reservoir through a series of water projects, starting as early as 1885, according to the state.

The Utah Division of Water Resources said Panguitch Lake was 87% full and holding nearly 19,500 acre-feet of water as of Wednesday morning.

Deputies also closed a 17-mile stretch of state Route 143 between the lake and Panguitch, which runs below the lake. The highway remains open above the lake to Brian Head and Parowan.

Wednesday afternoon update

In a Wednesday afternoon news release, state, county and local government agencies said the breach risk is at a level 2 of 3 levels. The main portion of the dam is intact, officials said.

They said the area impacted is an expansion that was added to the top of the dam sometime between 1930 and 1940. Additionally, if a failure did take place, officials said only the top 2 to 5 feet of the dam would likely breach. Officials also said a complete breach of the dam is unlikely.

However, authorities are continuing to watch and monitor the situation, they said the following measures are being taken to mitigate the situation:

  • Releasing water to lower the level of the lake. At the current rate of incoming and outgoing water, it could take eight to 10 days to get the water below the affected area.
  • Material will be added to the dam to support affected dam sections.
  • Trenching the reservoir ice to relieve pressure on the top section of the dam.
  • Clearing water pathways to prevent any debris fields and stream overflows.

Officials also said the city of Panguitch is still open and not under any current evacuation notices.

Traffic and evacuation plans have been established should a breach to the dam occur. If a breach were to occur, homes on the western side of Panguitch could be impacted by flood waters, according to officials.

Community meeting

A community meeting will be held Wednesday evening at Panguitch High School at 6 p.m. The meeting will answer questions and disseminate information. If you are not able to attend in person, the meeting is also available through Zoom, which can be viewed by clicking here.

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DWR shuts down fishing at Panguitch Lake due to damaged dam