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Work begins on Scofield Dam

By CLAUDETTE LANGLEY
Sun Advocate reporter


Traffic lights have been set up to regulate traffic approaching the dam from Highway 6. The Bureau of Reclamation representatives said there will only be minor delays during the construction work.

The $12.5 million project to do upgrades and improvements to the spillway at the Scofield Dam is ready to begin this month, according to an official from the United States Department of the Interior Bureau of Reclamation.

Bruce Barrett, Provo area office manager for the bureau, announced last Thursday that the Scofield Repayment Contract was signed and executed June 1, clearing the way for the work to begin at the dam.

"We are going to replace most of the spillway," Barrett said. "It was built in the 1940s and wasn't built with the same standards we require today."

A quirk of nature may have worked in the project's favor. According to Barrett despite the heavy snows this last winter the expected runoff did not materialize, which would have required releasing water to regulate the levels.

"It's strange because it stayed cold we didn't get the runoff we expected," he said. "Some of it apparently went back into the ground. So it hasn't been an issue this spring."

The need for replacement of the structure is driven by the potential for the spillway's concrete slabs to lift up, Barret said.

In addition the project, which is a collaboration between the Utah Department of Transportation, Carbon County Water Conservancy and the Bureau of Reclamation, also includes a new gate house and bridge.

"UDOT will smoothing out a sharp bend in the road by opening it up," Barrett said.

According to Barrett the major work on the spillway is scheduled to be finished by December 2008 and the finishing touches are slated for completion in the summer of 2009.

This milestone aside, work at the dam has already been started by Lehi-based Gerber Construction, according to Barrett the company has been on site since last summer.

While Scofield Dam's history goes back approximately 60 years Utahns have been drawing on the waters of the Price River for far longer.

A history from the Bureau of Reclamation traces the start of the Scofield Project to 1883 when ditch companies went in and diverted water from the river to be used for irrigation. The project changed hands a couple of times before the first attempt at building a dam was undertaken.

The initial effort was damned however, when during its construction the Mammoth Dam failed releasing 11,000 acre-feet of water flooding railroad and mining property and causing $1 million of damage.

The next attempt to store the waters of the Price River was undertaken by the Price River Water Conservation District and the first Scofield Dam was erected. However, the fate of this dam wasn't much better than it predecessor as it partially failed in 1928.

But unlike Mammoth Dam this one survived by limiting the capacity of the reservoir to 30,000 acre-feet .

In rode the federal government about 15 years later with a plan for a "completely new and larger structure to be erected about 800 feet downstream from the existing dam," according to the history from the www.usbr.gov.

At the same time the Carbon Water Conservancy District was formed and negotiated the contract with U.S. government for construction of the dam. The new Scofield Dam was completed in 1946.

As for the current project, visitors to the reservoir are most likely interested in how it will affect the recreational activities of the area, according to Barrett.

"There will be traffic lights used to control the traffic across the road because the width is restricted but the wait shouldn't be more than three minutes," he said. "And the work shouldn't hinder the fishing, boating or water sports."





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