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Erodible soils may be to blame for Murray canal break

Landscaping, homes too close to canal may be cause of collapse

MURRAY — Murray residents displaced after a canal broke, sending water into their homes more than a month ago, were told erodible soils appear to have caused the problem.

During a meeting last week about possibly creating a state canal safety program, the president of the North Jordan Irrigation Company spoke to homeowners about the engineering report. The report isn't official, but homeowners were told the problem appears to be "erodible soils."

Van King, president of the North Jordan Irrigation Company, also said animal burrows and root systems from trees and vegetation homeowners planted could have helped erode the ground. Homeowners said that wasn't the case. Homeowners living along Saddle Bluff Drive in Murray have been landscaping their backyards for years.

"No one ever told us we couldn't," said Murray homeowner Pat Bell.

The North Jordan Irrigation Company thinks that could be part of why a piece of its canal broke last month, though. That landscaping is on a slope that goes up to the canal.

Jessica Goodman, whose home was flooded, thinks the canal company is just blaming someone else for the collapse. She's upset they're already working on the canal instead of their homes.

"Good days and bad days, mainly bad days," Goodman said. "We miss our home. We miss our security and comfort for our kids."

Homeowners also found out their homes shouldn't have been built within 100 feet of the canal. Most of them are within 50 feet.

The breach of the North Jordan Canal on April 27 sent a cascade of mud, rock and water into the homes along Saddle Bluff Drive (6765 South) and 1200 West. As many as eight homes were affected by the flooding, with three homes receiving substantial property damage.

"We've tried to be as transparent as possible," King said during the meeting.

"We've certainly had a few breaks that have been significant," said Rep. Johnny Anderson, R-Taylorsville. Creating a state canal safety program much like the state's dam safety program would include mapping Utah's 6,600 miles of canals, creating a hazard scale and categorizing safety levels.

"We're going to have to work with canal companies," Anderson said. "We're going to have to come up with some kind of collaborative effort that protects private property, protects citizens, but also gives the canal companies what they need."

While affected homeowners would like to see that program in the future, they said they're more concerned about their present situation. They just want to know if the canal company's insurance is going to cover them.

"It's just more frustration to me," Goodman said. "I'm sure they sleep in their beds at night."

Email: acabrero@deseretnews.com