Conservation project gives ducks the boot


    By Deanna Devey

    A part of BYU will be leaving when the ducks living near the canal by North Campus Drive and Heritage Halls are evicted from their homes to make way for water conservation.

    The Central Utah Project contractors will pipe the canal in order to conserve water, increase safety and improve sprinkler systems.

    As part of a water conservation project to help in Utah”s drought, Central Utah Water Conservancy District will pipe the Upper East Union Canal, which is just under the Bell Tower.

    Construction on the canal, which begins at the mouth of Provo Canyon, has already begun near the Riverwoods shopping complex. The BYU section will be piped as early as this summer.

    “It (the project) will cause a significant change in the look of the landscape,” said Roy Peterman, director of grounds at BYU and president of the Upper East Union Canal Co.

    After the canal is piped, a landscape mound will be constructed near the sidewalk with shrubbery and an ornamental fence, Peterman said. Significant landscaping will be done to prevent people from cutting across the hill.

    Though BYU has one-third of the shares in the canal, BYU does not actually own the entire canal, said Paul Reese, a civil engineer in BYU”s planning department and secretary of the canal company.

    He said the Upper East Union Canal Co. has an easement to use the canal.

    “The conservation efforts of the move are massive,” Peterman said.

    The canal, which was one of the first in Utah Valley, was established in the 1800”s to water the fields on which BYU now sits.

    “The water used in an agricultural setting to benefit,” he said.

    The Central Utah Water Conservancy District, a political subdivision of the state of Utah, is in charge of piping the canal.

    “The water situation in the state in the drought has become very severe,” Peterman said.

    He said because of the state”s drought, the state engineer has been looking into confiscating the canal water because it is not being used for agricultural purposes.

    “Therefore, rather than have the state actually confiscate the water, we determined we would enter into an agreement with the Central Utah Project to pipe the canal for those users who had a real purpose,” Peterman said.

    D. Heath Clark, acting project manager at Central Utah Water, said the canal is losing 32 percent of its water because of seepage.

    Central Utah Water will pipe the canal in exchange for the water rights to the 32 percent of water lost in the canal system, Clark said.

    BYU representative and canal company president Peterman said while shareholders will give up 32 percent of each of their shares to have Central Utah Water install the pipe, the remaining parts of the shares will be more valuable because the water can be filtered and pressurized.

    “It”s hard for us to use the water now,” Reese said. Because of the structure of campus, BYU cannot do a lot of flood irrigating.

    Owners lose 1,200 acre-feet of water using a canal system, Peterman said. That amount of water will be regained when the canal is piped.

    “BYU campus property including the temple and the MTC is only 637 acres,” Peterman said. “That means that this is 1,200 acres, almost twice as much, covered one foot deep. That”s how much water. That”s a lot of water.”

    And this represents only a first set of savings, he said. Another set of savings of 1,700 acre-feet will result because BYU can use secondary rather than culinary water for the landscape.

    “We”re going to get a canal that is diverted further upstream than where we have our present diversion, which will allow us to have a moderate pressure here on campus, allowing us to have a secondary source of water that will serve as a backup to preserve the multi-billion dollar landscape and eventually be a primary source for watering the landscape,” Peterman said.

    The canal will also create a safer environment.

    “Nobody likes an open ditch,” said Clark, the project manager. “The safety concerns far outweigh anything else.”

    This is not the first time a project like this has been completed. Two years ago, Central Utah Water piped the Timpanogous Canal by Timpview High School and Apple Avenue.

    “That”s the reason we”re doing it because they were so successful,” Reese said.

    He said disruptions to students and campus will be minimal.

    Machines will be used to push a high-density plastic pipe down the existing canal lines, Clark said.

    “Specifically at BYU, there”s probably a lot of people in the Timpanogous system that didn”t even know we were piping even though there was 1,200-1,800 feet of pipe that was pushed under WyMount Terrace,” Clark said.

    But as the canal changes, the ducks will have to change their home.

    Reese said he hopes the ducks will live on the south of campus in the other canal or botanical area. But, he is not aware of BYU having any plan to take care of the ducks.

    Clark said people have brought up concerns about the wildlife, but the canal is not a river or a creek and the canal company can go in and make modifications to its system.

    “To be honest with you, I know if I were a duck, I don”t know that I”d want to be around 28,000 students anyways,” Clark said.

    Some students expressed concern after learning about the piping project.

    “The ducks and the canal are part of BYU,” said Stephen O”Brien, 24, a junior from Petoskey, Mich., majoring in business, who lived in Heritage Halls. “Without them living on campus or just going to BYU wouldn”t be the same.”

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