The Fish and Wildlife Service has agreed to temporarily take over management of Red Butte Dam, the dam for which no agency has been willing to accept responsibility.
The agency agreed last week to oversee the dam and its reservoir until the fall so it could continue to protect the endangered June sucker fish. The reservoir is being used as a refuge for the fish.Reed Harris, field supervisor for the agency, said his office will look for another holding area for the fish for the winter in case the dam has to be removed, but he would rather see the Forest Service or the Army Corps of Engineers take responsibility.
"We're disappointed that the other entities couldn't come to a resolution," he said. "They still might, and I hope they do, but we can't wait anymore. We have to do whatever we can" to protect the fish.
The problems began in March, when the Army Corps of Engineers said it no longer wanted to oversee the dam. It built the 128-foot high structure in the 1930s to provide water to Fort Douglas. In 1970 the Forest Service took over the area, but the Army continued to operate the dam until funding for Fort Douglas ran out earlier this year.
Salt Lake city and county officials considered operating the dam but were deterred by the $2 million to $3 million cost to bring it up to standard.
The Forest Service reluctantly took control of the dam in March but maintains it is still the Army's problem.
The Forest Service's temporary contract expired Wednesday.
Harris said his primary concern is the 5,000 fish that use the reservoir to spawn and mature. At least four of the fish died when the dam was under Forest Service control. Earlier this month the reservoir was accidentally lowered too much too quickly to accommodate runoff during the summer and fall.
The June sucker is native to the Provo River and Utah Lake, but non-native predators, inadequate water flows and low water quality have prevented the population from growing there, Harris said.