Panguitch Lake Dam evacuation order relaxed as water level drops

Officials ask residents of Panguitch and surrounding areas to remain prepared.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Workers move earth to secure the top of the Panguitch Lake Dam on Thursday, April 11, 2024.

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After successful emergency responses to damage at the Panguitch Lake Dam, public safety officials have relaxed an evacuation notice for Panguitch City and surrounding areas that was issued earlier this week.

“We still want people to be prepared and be ready to go, but we don’t anticipate needing to issue an evacuation order,” said Wade Mathews, a public information officer with the Utah Department of Public Safety.

“The urgency has passed, and we don’t want [residents] continuing to live under that fear and stress and anxiety,” he added, “but preparedness is always a good practice.”

[Read more: What we know about the Panguitch Lake Dam crack | Map of Utah’s ‘high hazard’ dams]

West Panguitch Irrigation Company, which owns Panguitch Lake Dam, discovered cracking and tilting in the dam on Monday evening. Officials reported on Wednesday that pressure from ice and high water levels caused the damage.

The Garfield County Sheriff’s Office issued an emergency alert on Wednesday that the dam could breach. The Utah Division of Water Rights began providing technical support to the owners, and on Thursday, Mathews said that the chances of the dam breaking were “almost zero.”

As of Friday morning, Panguitch Lake’s water level dropped by 8 inches from Tuesday evening. Engineers have prioritized lowering the water level until it is below the affected area of the dam, releasing water at a rate of 250 cubic feet per second.

Engineers have finished placing reinforcement material against the top layer of the dam, which was tilting, according ot Mathews. The supports have almost fully corrected the 8-inch tilt reported on Tuesday night.

Since engineers have ramped up releases from Panguitch Lake, officials advise residents to avoid Panguitch Creek. The high, rushing waters pose a threat to small children and pets.

Multiple agencies will continue to monitor the dam around the clock, with on-site inspections three times a day, Mathews said.

“We’ll continue to monitor throughout the spring runoff season and until the dam is repaired,” he added.

Officials reopened State Road 143 below the dam on Friday morning. A portion of the road had been closed since Monday.