Murray canal break highlights Utah canal regulation problem

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MURRAY, Utah - A canal wall that broke and flooded nearly ten homes in Murray over the weekend is highlighting a problem with Utah's canal regulations; the state doesn't have a canal inspection program.

In 2010, the state legislature passed House Bill 60, a law that aims to provide more stringent safety regulations for the state's canals. It was drafted in the wake of a 2009 canal break that killed three people in Logan.

Unfortunately, that law is voluntary. It says that if a water conveyance facility has a potential risk location, then the owner or operator must adopt a safety management plan, but only if they are receiving funding from the board of water resources.

All those companies need to do is send a letter to the board saying they've come up with a plan. Right now, there are about 50 canal companies that have filed such a letter, according to Utah's Division of Water Safety. There are between 1,300 and 1,400 canal companies in Utah.

"I would assume that they're doing what they need to be doing. The canal companies know their canal systems better than anybody else," said Todd Adams, director of the Division of Water Resources.

Meanwhile, impacted residents in Murray are continuing to clean up and anticipate tens of thousands of dollars in damages. They say they plan to address the issue at an upcoming city meeting.

"We do want to see if we can get these canals regulated and push these canal companies to a certain standard, rather than them saying that they maintained the canal. Let's create standards to make sure those canals are officially maintained," said Jessica Goodman, whose home flooded over the weekend.

The safety management plans created by canal companies are classified as "protected" and not public record.