Agencies pass the buck, say it’s someone else’s problem
Story and photo by Teresa Nield
LOGAN—The collapse was almost two years ago, but troubles and worries continue. Despite the fact that most of the wreckage has been cleared away from the area where the canal broke, residents of Canyon Road living below the out-of-use canal are still concerned about the problems they are now facing.
The canal does not currently have water flowing through it, which has allowed it to form stagnant pools of water full of moss, tree branches and garbage, prime mosquito-breeding real estate. Leila Shultz, who lives below the canal along Canyon Road, wrote a letter to the editor of The Herald Journal recently about the situation. Shultz asked what actions will be taken for the immediate problem of mosquitoes and garbage, and added “the even bigger concern is the stability of the hillside.”
Despite these concerns, it looks like the problems will not be solved until Logan city comes to a decision about the future of the canal.
The city is currently weighing four possible actions to replace or repair the canal. The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has released a draft environmental impact statement with a preferred option that can be viewed at http://www.ut.nrcs.usda.gov/. The options are color coded purple, blue and orange, plus a “no action” alternative. The purple action is the NRCS preferred alternative. All of the colored options involve the purchase and removal of 14 houses below the dangerous areas of the canal.
Questioned about Shultz’s concerns, Mark Neilson, Logan city’s public works director, said the canal is the responsibility of the canal company and any problems currently there are “their operation.” Despite the canal being Logan Northern Irrigation’s responsibility, Neilson said, “We will work with our citizens to resolve this … at least in the long run.”
But the NRCS’s state conservation engineer, Bronson Smart, questioned about their plans regarding Shultz’s concerns with the trail and the hillside stability, said, “It depends on what the city does.”
Smart also ponted to the NRCS’s offer to buy the 14 houses below the dangerous areas of the canal as an effort to prevent some of the future problems mentioned in Shultz’s letter. Smart said there is a 13 percent chance of a landslide each year, and the removal of the 14 houses should prevent more losses.
Even though the three colored options all involve the purchase of the 14 homes, each one is a little different:
– Purple requires the reconstruction of the Logan-Hyde Park-Smithfield Canal into a box culvert between the point of diversion and Lundstrom Park, and would divert the water into a pipeline under the streets to the Logan Northern Canal around 1500 North. From there, some water would be redirected into a pressure pipe on the existing canal maintenance road for upstream users. People with shares in the Logan Northern canal between the point of diversion and the Laub diversion would receive water from a new 6-inch pipeline installed in the current canal.
– Orange, while very close to the purple option, includes extending the Logan-Hyde Park-Smithfield Canal to either 2900 or 3100 North, at which point the culvert would end and the water for the Logan Northern Canal would be diverted to an underground pipeline to the Logan Northern Canal, where a pressure pipe would extend to 400 North to supply water to upstream shareholders.
– The Blue alternative requires the reconstruction of the Logan Northern Canal like it was before, with soil buttresses to support the Logan Bluff pipeline and help prevent a repeat of 2009’s hillside failure.
Smart also said the pools of stagnant water that were mentioned in Shultz’s letter come from springs, ground water, drainage from the road and parking lots above. So, until the canal’s future at that location is decided, there is not a lot that can be done about it. However, the parking lot and road above the canal are connected to it by a walking path that leads to the USU campus. Smart said the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) may have its own plans for that path.
But UDOT spokeswoman Tania Mashburn said while they own the area above the canal, they believe the trail that leads up to the USU campus is not an official trail and they have no plans to maintain it. “UDOT has no responsibility over the trail,” she said.
Despite the lingering questions, it appears many of them will not be answered until the question of how to replace the water distribution lost from the canal break is answered.