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Officials Compelled to Release Water Due to Enormous Dam Crack

Huge Crack in Dam Forces Officials to Release Water

Officials in Utah are facing a critical situation concerning the Panguitch Lake Dam, as a 60-foot-long crack has jeopardized its integrity. Despite the risk, permanent repairs are not slated to commence until after the spring snowmelt, leaving the dam vulnerable. Consequently, officials are compelled to continually release water from the dam to prevent water levels from surpassing the fracture.

Following the discovery of the crack, a flash-flood watch was issued for parts of the state, highlighting the severity of the situation. Although evacuations are not deemed necessary at this point, the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office has declared a Level 2 Emergency, indicating the potential for dam failure. This status will persist until repairs can be initiated, though the timeline for commencement remains uncertain.

The Level 2 Emergency designation is part of a scale established by the West Panguitch Irrigation Company, the entity responsible for the dam’s ownership and operation. Despite inquiries, company President Allen Henrie has not provided further comment on the matter. Meanwhile, officials have stated that the crack will not undergo permanent repair until after the cessation of spring runoff, necessitating ongoing monitoring of water levels.

Officials Compelled to Release Water Due to Enormous Dam Crack

Officials Compelled to Release Water Due to Enormous Dam Crack (Credits: FOX 5 San Diego)

Throughout the spring runoff period, dam officials will assess inflow to Panguitch Lake and adjust outflow accordingly to prevent water levels from exceeding the crack. Despite the persistence of the Level 2 Emergency, the urgency for evacuations has diminished, alleviating stress for residents. However, officials emphasize the importance of preparedness and urge residents to remain vigilant and informed.

Residents in affected areas are advised to familiarize themselves with evacuation routes, prepare emergency kits, and keep abreast of developments.

In the event of evacuations, residents are directed to head east toward Hatch, Utah. While Highway 143 to Panguitch Lake has reopened and businesses in Panguitch are operational, recreational activities like ice fishing have been impacted due to safety concerns arising from declining water levels.

The identification of the crack underscores broader concerns regarding Utah’s infrastructure, with dams receiving a C+ grade from the Utah Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers in 2020. This grade reflects the urgent need for attention and highlights the imperative of addressing deficiencies in infrastructure to ensure public safety and mitigate risks posed by structural vulnerabilities.

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