LOCAL NEWS

Evacuation notice lifted for Panguitch as crews continue stabilization efforts at dam

Apr 12, 2024, 1:29 PM | Updated: Apr 22, 2024, 10:04 am

PANGUITCH, Garfield County — An evacuation notice that was issued for residents of Panguitch and surrounding areas has been lifted as crews continue to stabilize a cracked portion of Panguitch Lake Dam.

State Route 143 has also reopened to regular traffic, but parts of the road will remain closed or monitored.

“I am confident with the results of our mitigation efforts to effectively reduce the pressure on the Panguitch Lake Dam and the potential for an uncontrolled release. That work allows us to lift the evacuation notice, but I do urge people to stay prepared for this and other types of hazards,” said Garfield County Sheriff Eric Houston, incident commander for the Panguitch Lake incident. “I want to thank the community for their positive response, support, and patience as we have worked through this situation. I especially appreciate the communication, collaboration, and efforts provided by all of our response partners as well.”

The main portion of the dam is intact, state officials said on Wednesday. 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.

Everett Taylor, one of the engineers embarking on this project, said it took a lot of collaboration and cooperation.

“That wall had continued to move toward the downstream side.” Taylor said. “We knew we needed to act very quickly to address that.”

Taylor said the dam required a three-step solution. “The first was to relieve the pressure the ice was causing on the dam. The second was to stabilize the downstream of the wall that was tipping. And the third was to continue to release water from the reservoir through the low-level outlet.” Taylor said.

Stabilization efforts include: “extending rock rip-rap across the face of the affected section of the dam,” removing ice along the upstream face of the dam and releasing as much water as possible from the lake.

Crews plan to release enough water to drop the lake’s level below the affected section to make a full assessment of the damage. As of Friday morning, the lake had been lowered by 8 inches.

“Authorities urge community members to stay informed should situations change,” state officials said. “Should conditions evolve, information would be disseminated to the public through local media, social media, and the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office Website.”

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.”

Authorities urged residents to be careful near Panguitch Creek, which will be flowing higher and faster due to water releases from the lake.

Staff engineers from the Utah Division of Water Rights will continue to be onsite daily and work with deputies and the dam owner to plan for anticipated spring runoff. “Once those levels have subsided, engineering and plans will be developed for permanent repairs to the affected area of Panguitch Lake Dam.”

Remaining closures

  • North Shore Road is closed except for property owners between the boat ramp and S.R. 143.
  • The area surrounding the Panguitch Lake Dam will also remain closed to all unauthorized personnel due to unsafe conditions.
  • Due to high and swift water, Marilyn Bulkley Park near Panguitch City is closed.
  • Ice fishing on Panguitch Lake is not permitted. With the water level being reduced, ice conditions could be dangerous.
  • Use caution near Panguitch Creek. Increased water released from the dam has increased the risk of high, swift water.  Please watch children and pets and keep them away from the creek. Turn around, don’t drown. Further flood preparedness information can be found at https://beready.utah.gov/utah-hazards/flood/.

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 Friday morning.

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Evacuation notice lifted for Panguitch as crews continue stabilization efforts at dam