The dam emergency at Panguitch Lake caused a bit of an upset earlier this month when many residents in the surrounding area weren’t sure if they would have to abandon their homes.  

Luckily, the situation is now more or less under control, but it does beg the question, what’s the protocol for a dam breach in Washington County? 

Zach Renstrom from the Washington County Water Conservancy District was on the Andy Griffin Show Podcast on April 24 to talk about such a situation, and how the county would approach a possible dam breach. 

Renstrom said, “Dams are big structures. If they fail, they can cause a lot of damage and even take lives, and so we take it very, very seriously. The State of Utah also takes it very, very seriously.” 

According to Renstrom, the county and state rank the dams on the level of risk they can pose to the public if they were to break. The three dams with the highest risk factor can be found at Gunlock Reservoir, Sand Hollow Reservoir, and Quail Lake. 

The latter had a dam breach in 1989, and an evacuation order was issued to the surrounding area. This is an example of what Renstrom wants to avoid, and that’s why they plan to spring into action if there’s even a hint of danger to the community. 

Renstrom said, “Even if there’s even a hiccup, if there’s even a concern, then we respond to that, we have state people respond to that, we just, when we monitor these dams, we’re constantly looking for any types of changes.” 

The water officials also stated the measures taken during the Winter months where they send staff to dams in helicopters to monitor the situation, and they immediately get to work if there is a concern. 

More details can be found in the full episode of the Andy Griffin Show Podcast with other highlights including updates to several reservoirs in the works for Southern Utah and the Northern Corridor field hearing on April 22 where Renstrom testified against reported federal overreach. 

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