Officials ‘encouraged’ by latest update on Panguitch Lake Dam

Apr 11, 2024, 6:52 AM

PANGUITCH, Garfield County — Officials said they were encouraged Wednesday evening following the latest update on efforts to stabilize a compromised section of Panguitch Lake Dam.

State, county and city leaders briefed the community at a meeting at Panguitch High School.

“The affected area is the upper portion, section of the upper wall of the dam — approximately 60 feet long, 2 to 5 feet tall,” explained Everett Taylor, assistant state engineer over dam safety with the Utah Division of Water Rights. “(It) was beginning to tilt or rotate toward the downstream, causing a concern for an uncontrolled release of a portion of the reservoir.”

Taylor described a multipronged approach to dealing with the problem, including releasing water through a low-level outlet, breaking up the ice sheet in strategic areas to alleviate pressure on the dam and stabilizing the area of the wall that was rotating.

“I’m very encouraged with the progress that has been made today,” Taylor said. “We’ve gone from eight degrees tilted downstream to now two degrees tilted downstream, so the wall has tilted back toward the reservoir and we see that as a positive sign.”

Officials were still cautioning residents about the potential for an evacuation if the situation at the dam goes sideways. They said if there were a breach, floodwaters would likely take at least two hours to reach the town from the dam.

DWR shuts down fishing at Panguitch Lake due to damaged dam

Utah Highway Patrol Sgt. Ben Cox ran through what the evacuation plan would look like, while Garfield County Sheriff Eric Houston said residents would be notified of an evacuation via sirens, door knocks and community alerts.

Panguitch Mayor Kim Soper grew emotional when talking about the support the community had already received.

“Sorry, (it’s) just the thought of it,” he said. “I’ve had so many calls of people wanting to help.”

Resident Greg Payne, who lives next to Panguitch Creek, said it was a positive to attend the meeting for the answers it brought.

“We’re ready to evacuate,” Payne said. “I just can’t imagine this happening to our town. Hopefully it doesn’t.”

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Officials ‘encouraged’ by latest update on Panguitch Lake Dam