By Mallory Jesperson
SALT LAKE CITY– Residents of Murray experienced firsthand the damage that can be done by the breaching of nearby water canals April 2013.
Unfortunately, this breach isn’t the first of its kind within Utah. Logan and Riverdale residents have experienced the same kind of flood damage from a nearby water canal break, and this muddy mess has led to Sen. Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake City, to sponsor SB114, a canal safety bill. Committee members voted to send the bill for study between March 2014 and January 2015.
On Tuesday Feb. 25, Davis appeared before representatives of the House to discuss the main purpose SB114. This bill would attempt to provide effective risk assessment of canals and would allow municipalities to gain loans for repairs. SB114 does not, however, address growth or encroachment.
Davis said, “My hope would be that it (SB114) would create more harmony between the municipalities and canal companies.”
The bill would require that all canal owners conduct an assessment of their canals and determine whether their canal is high risk, medium risk, or low risk. If it is determined that a canal is at high risk then it would be placed on a “canal action list” by the Utah Division of Water Rights, and be required to make necessary repairs and improvements. Not only will canal owners be expected to conduct these assessments, but they would also be expected to create a plan of action to remedy the problems and get it approved by the Utah Division of Water Rights in order to receive a loan to make the repairs. Canal owners would not be able to receive monetary support without this remediation plan.
Rep. Mike McKell, R-Spanish Fork, started the discussion among the representatives in support of SB114 stating it is, “a step in the right direction.”
Kent Jones, Utah’s state engineer joined him in favor; Jones is in charge of Utah’s dam safety program whose main objective is to ensure public safety.
However, that wasn’t the sentiment of those who showed up to testify.
Carly Burton, of Utah Water Users Association, said does not believe that this bill is ready to be passed out of committee. Others who opposed the bill fear that these canal companies would be held liable and will end up being more of a burden on these companies.
Davis said “this bill is not an end all be all bill.” But, Davis believes that action needs to be taken to stop the major breaches that Utah counties endure every three or four years and to keep the public safe.
When the motion was made the representatives unanimously agreed to send the bill back to interim study for more work.