After sitting empty for the past two years, Bottle Hollow Reservoir, a popular fishing and boating spot 10 miles east of Roosevelt, is slowly being refilled.
The reservoir is owned and operated by the Ute Indian Tribe in conjunction with the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). Workers began draining the reservoir in 1989 in order to repair an outlet works gate that had become inoperable."We had concerns about the safety of people living below the reservoir," stated Fred Chavez, BIA Land Operation manager. "The gate stems were damaged, and we couldn't open them completely. Because we couldn't open the gates, we asked the tribe if we could drain the entire reservoir in order to correct the problem. It was the only option we had."
At the same time faulty gates plagued operations at the reservoir, so did stagnant conditions that resulted in the deterioration of the fish population and the decline of recreational activities.
"We were already having problems with the anchor worms on the fish. It didn't affect the quality of the meat, but it looked ugly on the fish. People were getting discouraged. They determined it was due to a lack of circulation," Chavez explained.
Trash fish had also invaded the waters.
The complete drainage of the reservoir also allowed core samples to be taken to determine if suspected contamination may have been responsible for less than ideal conditions that had cropped up just prior to 1989.
The reservoir was built on a dump site used in the late 1800s by members of the U.S. Calvary station at Fort Duchesne.
However, according to Lynn Hansen, BIA Project manager, the samples were inconclusive and basically turned up just small amounts of naturally occurring mercury.
New methods of filling the lake are expected to eliminate stagnate conditions and create enough oxygen for fish to thrive.
"Bottle Hollow is in the process of being refilled by the Bench Canal just to the west. To increase circulation, fresh water from the Uinta River will be diverted through the reservoir, then run into the Henry Jim Canal," Hansen said.
Chavez estimates rainbow and brook trout won't be restocked in the lake until September or October, providing there's sufficient water to prevent winter kill from freezing conditions.
"It's a matter of how much water we can get in to ensure the survival of the fish. We're at the mercy of Mother Nature. It's only 60 or 70 percent of a normal water year, and we have to depend on runoff to fill the reservoir. If we don't get any more water this year, it will take about two or 21/2 years to completely fill it."
Bottle Hollow Reservoir was built 20 years ago by the Bureau of Reclamation to mitigate the impacts of the Central Utah Project by providing 400 surface acre-feet of water or the tribe, said Chavez.