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Dutch John — a Utah town fishing for a future

Northeastern Utah hamlet, spawned by dam construction and sustained by government aid, faces life on its own

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It opened the door for more use. After Dutch John residents voiced concern, the Bureau of Reclamation did an audit in 2011.

Daggett County was cleared to use the money for other purposes, but it was ordered to pay the bureau $350,000 for the interest the fund had improperly accrued, Morton said. The checks were supposed to be spent annually.

At a glance

A History of Dutch John

The Bureau of Reclamation put eight transit houses and 25 trailers on a flat near the construction site for Flaming Gorge Dam in 1957.

A bunkhouse, cookhouse, mess hall, hospital and schoolhouse were also eventually added. As many as 3,500 workers lived in Dutch John at the peak of construction, which was completed in 1964.

The site was transferred to Daggett County in 1999, but the county received annual federal checks to fund public services until 2013.

Efforts to incorporate Dutch John are now being pursued and a feasibility study is underway.

Sources: “A History of Daggett County: A Modern Frontier” by Michael W. Johnson with Robert E. Parson and Daniel A. Stebbins; U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Reclamation.

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McDonald, who recently traveled to Washington, D.C., to speak with federal officials, said a second audit is being considered by the Office of Inspector General in the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Morton said the current balance in the account is about $400,000, down from the "$4 to $5 million" it had once been.

The county has paid for capital improvements to Dutch John’s water and sewer systems. But residents say they believe the federal dollars spent elsewhere should have been repaid to the fund.

The land » After acquiring Dutch John, county officials began work on a development plan.

"It has been a major concern for years," Raymond said. "We have been working to build up the value and increase revenues to match, or at least offset, some of that loss. We have had some big plans. It is just taking longer than we had hoped."

Part of the problem, according to Morton, was a property-disposition ordinance that discouraged potential developers. The county has since created a rural development agency that gives it more flexibility to negotiate on projects.

McDonald wants Dutch John to incorporate, so development and other decisions can be made by a city council.

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"Right now the weight of the population in Daggett County is in Manila," he said, "and a lot of decisions are pushed into Dutch John from that community."

Seventy-eight percent of the registered voters in Dutch John signed a petition to study incorporation, and the Daggett County Commission has approved hiring a Salt Lake City firm to do a feasibility study.

"People in Dutch John don’t feel like they received their fair share of the millions of dollars that have come to the county," said Warren Blanchard, the first Dutch John resident to serve on the Daggett County Commission. "Everyone will admit they got some benefit, but they feel kind of like they got the short end of the stick."

Putting on his County Commission hat, Blanchard adds, "Of course, the county will say everything going to the county was to help offset the cost that Dutch John brought to the county."

Blanchard retired in 2006 after working for 10 years as the operations and dam manager at Flaming Gorge. His term ends this year, but two other Dutch John residents are running for seats.

The future » Ed Eudis has grand plans for Dutch John.

He and two partners bought Flaming Gorge Recreation Services in Dutch John out of bankruptcy 18 months ago. It was once the only business in town, offering two cabins, a trailer park, a garage and recreation rentals.

Trout Creek Flies eventually opened and provided similar services. The only other business in town is Sweet Lorraine’s bed-and-breakfast, recently opened by McDonald.

Eudis says he’s seen typical delays, but insists "commissioners have worked tirelessly to help us get things moving."

He wants to build 15 cabins of multiple sizes to appeal to a range of visitors. Some one-room cabins are already open with two-room cabins set to follow this spring and summer.

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