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Upper Colorado Region
Salt Lake City, Utah
Media Contact:
Barry Wirth
801-524-3774 or 801-633-5046 (cell)

Released On: November 14, 2006

Reclamation and Weber Basin Conservancy District Make Emergency Repairs to Seepage Discovered at Willard Bay's Aurthur v. Watkins Dam
The Bureau of Reclamation and the Weber Basin Water Conservancy District have been working since last night to resolve a seepage problem on the south portion of the Arthur V. Watkins Dam that creates Willard Bay Reservoir north of Ogden, Utah. Overnight, crews from the District and Reclamation built a sand filter and gravel blanket to stop the seepage. Crews are on the dam monitoring the site and will remain in place for as long as is necessary.

The problem was reported at about 2:00 in the afternoon yesterday, November 13, 2006. It was immediately assessed by senior dam safety specialists and managers from both agencies and repair work was undertaken. By about 10:30 p.m., the work was completed.

At no time was there an inordinate risk downstream of the dam. The area involved is well removed from the Interstate 15 highway to the east. As crews were repairing the seep site, they were also prepared to breach the dam into the Great Salt Lake if emergency conditions dictated. It never came to that point, but such a breech plan remains in place.

Today, Reclamation and the District are assessing the seepage site with the added benefit of daylight. There are three basic objectives to that review including insuring that the immediate problem has been resolved; beginning to determine what caused the seepage to start after 40 years of the dam being in place; and to determine over the long-term what other repair should be designed and constructed.

Meanwhile the Willard Bay Reservoir is being drawn down, with water discharged through the outlet works into the Great Salt Lake. There is currently about 175,000 acre-feet of water in Willard Bay. The State of Utah's Division of Parks and Recreation and the Division of Wildlife Resources have been notified of both the incident and the plans to draw down the reservoir, pending long-term decisions and repairs.

One item of note is that Reclamation and the District maintain an emergency plan and routinely practice emergency responses. When the initial call was received, officials of both agencies immediately put into place those rehearsed actions. As a result, there was no confusion as to roles, decisions to be made, or the location of equipment, workers, and supplies. That, in turn, contributed to a very quick resolution. Additionally, Box Elder County and Weber County emergency officials were notified and were on site.

No cost estimates have yet been developed, either for the emergency response last night and today or for long-term repairs. No estimates are yet available as to when the District will begin to refill Willard Bay.

The dam, which is 14 and one-half miles long and encloses the reservoir beside the Great Salt Lake, is about 35 feet high. At the time of the seepage discovery, water was about 15 feet from the top of the dam, which is about one-and-a-half feet from what is considered full.

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