Willard Bay to reopen after yearlong wait

Published: Wednesday, May 21 2014 7:37 p.m. MDT

A clean creek with vegetation flows at Willard Bay State Park's North Marina on Wednesday, May 21, 2014. The marina has been closed since a fuel spill last year. Earlier this year, state officials approved a $5.35 million settlement with Chevron over the pipeline leak, which released about 20,000 gallons of diesel fuel.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

WILLARD, Box Elder County — After more than a year, fences are down and Willard Bay's Eagle Beach will reopen Saturday, just in time for Memorial Day.

"We've got people who are excited to get back out here and recreate," said James Morgan, Willard Bay State Park manager. "We also have the people who are hesitant to come back out because of what happened."

Morgan assures wary guests they have nothing to worry about. Utah's Division of Water Quality has tested the water for safety hazards and has determined it's clean.

Cleanup crews have worked since March 2013 to reinvent the bay after a Chevron diesel pipeline burst, spilling 600 barrels of fuel.

The spill posed a threat to recreational users and wildlife, forcing state park officials to close the area until it could be cleaned.

The shutdown turned away nearly 250,000 visitors, park officials said. However, the wait is nearly over, and families are encouraged to celebrate Willard Bay's reopening from 10 am. to 4 p.m. Saturday. The event will feature food and live music.

Chris Bittner, an environmental toxicologist with the DWQ, said state officials had hoped to open the bay sooner but wanted to be sure it was safe.

"There has been a lot of work done on it," Bittner said. "I wish it happened quicker, but sometimes doing it right takes longer."

In addition to nature trail improvements and more overflow parking accessibility, wildlife have been outfitted with more living opportunities.

"We've got duck boxes and bat boxes that we didn't have in this area before and different kinds of plant life," Morgan said.

With humans and animals happy, Willard Bay State Park will once again be "one of northern Utah's great fishing spots," said Phil Douglass, with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.

Final estimates on costs to rehabilitate the area were not available Wednesday. Chevron agreed in February to pay $550,000 to the Utah state parks system toward cleanup and to compensate for lost visitors at Willard Bay.

Chevron also agreed to pay $350,000 in civil penalties to the state Division of Water Quality and $4.45 million to fund mitigation projects above and beyond any cleanup actions by the company.

Contributing: Haley Smith

Email: mcollette@deseretnews.com, Twitter: MirandaCollette

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