Lawmakers discussing options to make Utah canals safer

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Utah has between 6,000 and 7,000 miles of canals, controlled by roughly 1,200 canal companies. On Wednesday, state lawmakers began wrestling with the issue of how to make those canals safer.

The urgency of the matter became crystal clear after the Logan Northern Canal broke last summer, killing three people who lived in a home below -- Jacqueline Leavey and her two children. It also caused major flooding in the area.

The Logan Northern Canal ruptured around noon July 11, sending water and mud rushing into a nearby neighborhood.
The Logan Northern Canal ruptured around noon July 11, sending water and mud rushing into a nearby neighborhood.

Logan Rep. Fred Hunsaker was on the scene of the accident last summer and is sponsoring a bill to create a safety and management plan for canals.

"It was a wrenching experience," Hunsaker said. "What we're trying to do is find solution to the likelihood that it would happen again; or if another canal breaches, it won't be as serious."

The proposal is being closely watched by a media watchdog group that opposes a provision to prevent management plans and other related records from being made public.

The bill calls for the state and an association of conservation districts to help pay for and develop management plans. Canal companies, however, worry about a solution they can't afford.

"Canal companies are nervous in that they don't want to be handed something that is, perhaps, an unfunded mandate, or perhaps something that they don't' have the resources to do," said Sterling Brown, with the Utah Farm Bureau.

A vote on the bill was put on hold Tuesday after a committee hearing.


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John Daley


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