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Months after Willard Bay oil spill, campground opens

By Amy Joi O'Donoghue and Alex Cabrero | Posted - Jul 20th, 2013 @ 6:44pm


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WILLARD BAY — The gates of Willard Bay's North Campground and Marina were happily flung open Friday afternoon, months after that half of the state park was shut down due to a diesel fuel spill.

"Are you ready for the good news," said "They're unlocking the gates right now."

That was just a few minutes before 4 p.m. Friday, and within a couple of hours after Hayes received a risk assessment from the Utah Division of Water Quality.

"We are absolutely thrilled," Hayes said. "I just breathed a sigh of relief because we are glad to be able to open it up."

The risk assessment is a three-page technical memo that says the area is basically safe, but people should stay out of what remains fenced off to the public. That drainage area, home to a family of beavers impacted by the spill, does not intrude on the camping spots, Hayes added.

"Anything that was generally open to the public before is open to them now."


"The question is what happens if someone gets in that contaminated area."

John Whitehead, deputy director of the water quality division, said the assessment looked at a "trespasser scenario" and the question of what would happen if someone scaled the fence and ventured into the contaminated area.

"The question is what happens if someone gets in that contaminated area," Whitehead said.

"They should definitely keep the fence in place and keep people out," he said, adding that the area does not pose severe risks.

The closure since the March 18 failure of Chevron pipeline has been a hardship on the park, which is one of the state's busiest, hosting close to 350,000 visitors last year.

A preliminary investigation determined a seam along the 8-inch pipeline split, sending 600 barrels of diesel fuel into park.

Whitehead said the cleanup is essentially done, with only traces that remain. The agency issued a notice of violation to Chevron and a settlement on what the financial penalties may be won't be reached until late this summer.

Though Willard Bay is open now, park managers said they don't know for how much longer, due to low water levels.

"We've only got maybe a third of the boat ramp open right now because of the water level situation," said Willard Bay State Park Manager James Morgan. " We're worried that while we are open right now, we might have to close it if we continue to drop the way we are right now."

He will watch the water level closely, but said for now, he is glad to watch people having fun again.

Visitors, too, were excited by the news that the area was clean and open for recreation again.

"Pretty exciting. It's been awhile since I've been on Willard and it was just disappointing when all that stuff happened," said Sunset resident Karlee Lizza.

The pipeline is 760 miles long, stretching from Salt Lake City north into Spokane, Wash.

In May, Tesoro Logistics announced it had purchased the pipeline for $355 million, with the requirement that Chevron maintain responsibility for any cleanup at the Willard site for two years.

Chevron has also been responsible for a pair of oil spills that despoiled Red Butte Creek in 2010.

In the aftermath, Chevron was fined by the federal government and paid out $1 million to Salt Lake City for lost use of the stream. The company paid another $500,000 to the state in penalties, paid $3 million in mitigation projects and reimbursed residents and others affected with $929,000 in payments.

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