Murdock canal about to go underground

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UTAH COUNTY — A construction project that will benefit the Wasatch Front is wrapping up on the Murdock Canal.

The 21-mile canal, which has been around for more than 100 years, will soon be an underground pipeline. Crews are down to their last four sections of pipe, and then the inspection will begin.

This modern upgrade to the canal should provide water for at least another century. But going back 160 years, we found some interesting family ties even now to this pipeline project.

John Riggs Murdock was an early pioneer in Utah, and the man who built what became known as the Murdock Canal.

"When John Riggs dug it, maybe there was a handful of people, maybe 40 to 50 people, that relied on it. Now there are millions of people along the Wasatch Front that will use this as a major water supply," said project engineer Adam Murdock.

Yes, Adam Murdock is related to John Murdock, but that's not the reason his firm got the job. He calls it an honor to carry on the work of his great-great-great-grandfather.

Once the underground pipeline is finished, it will carry 400 million gallons of water from Provo Canyon to the Salt Lake Valley. Construction, however, is much different this time.

"In 1911 it was built primarily with volunteer labor and no power equipment of any kind," said Steve Cain, with the Provo River Water Users Association.

But Cain says the pipeline is not just about delivering and conserving water, it's about reducing the dangers of an open waterway, now surrounded by neighborhoods.

"IF the canal was an open canal, during an earthquake it would be a big disaster. The pipeline prevents all of that," Cain said.

And the foresight John Murdock had in 1851 to provide early settlers with water for their crops is still critical to the future of the Wasatch Front.

"We're still receiving the benefits of the labor that John R. (Murdock) did," said John Brooke, a great-great- grandson of Murdock. "The canal symbolizes that. We're still receiving water that he envisioned coming down that canal when he built it in the early 1850s."

Crews will start testing the pipeline next week. By May 1, the water will start flowing, just in time for the growing season.

Where the open canal use to be, work is under way on a recreational trail. It's anticipated to be finished next spring.


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Sam Penrod


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