SALT LAKE CITY — Not only is the water level at Echo Reservoir increasing — 4 inches in one night alone — but construction crews building the new Echo dam are almost done.
In just a couple of more weeks, the gates at Echo Resort in Summit County will be unlocked, picnics tables will be full of food and boats will be out on the water.
“It’s going to definitely be better than last year,” said Stacy Bird, one of the managers at Echo Resort. “I can see the light at the end of the tunnel."
The past couple of years haven’t been good for business. Drought conditions have kept Echo Reservoir so low, many boaters, fishermen and other water lovers stayed away.
For those who still came to Echo, Bird says she had to keep explaining why there was hardly any water.
“You just tell them that they need it down below for the livestock, for irrigation, and hopefully next year will be better,” Bird said, “It’s nerve-wracking. Unknowing is not good. It was horrible.”
But this year conditions are already looking better.
Not only is the water level increasing, but construction crews building the new Echo Dam are pretty much done.
“This is a great day for not only the Bureau of Reclamation, but for the roughly 300,000 people who rely on the water here,” said Wayne Pullan, the deputy area manager for the Bureau of Reclamation.
Crews started working on the dam five years ago, because engineers felt the old dam most likely wouldn't have held up in an earthquake.
The foundation of the old dam was built with a layer of material that could have caused the dam to sink if an earthquake happened.
“The concern was a portion of the dam might slump and we could have potential overtopping of the dam,” Pullan said. “The old dam was a great 1930's dam — it met 1930's standards. Now, we have a dam that meets today's standards.”
The new dam cost $33 million to build. Taxpayers will pay 85 percent of that cost, and the other 15 percent will be paid by water users of Echo Reservoir.
“The best thing for the public is they can drive past Echo and be confident this is the best science and engineering have to offer and they can be confident this dam is going to serve them for decades into the future,” Pullan said. “I’d feel good putting my house directly below that dam and living there until I die."