Tibble Fork breach pollutes American Fork River

Posted at 10:33 PM, Aug 23, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-24 08:47:22-04

AMERICAN FORK, Utah - Hundreds of fish are dead in a two-mile stretch of river in American Fork Canyon. The damage has come from a nearby construction project being done to Tibble Fork Reservoir to make the dam there earthquake ready.

"We couldn't find any fish alive there," said Mike Slater, with the Division of Wildlife Resources.

Slater and a team spent the day walking up and down the American Fork River from the mouth of the canyon, all the way up to the Reservoir, some five or six miles upstream.

"I can say that everything up to the fork looked to be alive," Slater added.

He said the only stretch being hit by the issue was the two-mile stretch closest to the reservoir.

The problem started late Sunday night, early Sunday morning, when project engineers say too much water was released from the dam too quickly, roughly 50 percent more than needed. The dam was to be drained so that construction crews could work to make the foundation of the dam more secure if an earthquake hit the area.

Instead, too much water was let out over roughly a 10-hour span that caused extra sediment to flow down river.

"The sediment release was not unexpected; however, the volume of it was," said Dave Brown, who's organization is handling the operation.

Though the area impacted only seems to be a two-mile stretch, Brown admits, that's still a large area.

"Absolutely we're concerned," he said. "That's why you saw 30-some people gathered around here trying to figure out where we go from here."

The Division of Water Quality was at the river on Tuesday as well, sampling water to make sure that it's only mud and silt that's making it's way downstream.

Some concerns by fishing locals revolve around the are minerals and metals in the water that could potentially be washed downstream too. The DEQ  says it will take 24 hours to analyze the tests, but in the meantime, irrigation officials stress that there doesn't appear to be a concern about secondary water being impacted to cities that are supplied from American Fork River.