A major public works project in Northern Utah reached a milestone on Wednesday. Representatives of the Cache Water Restoration Project say water has been restored to all shareholders along a series of canals in Cache County. UPR's Matt Jensen reports.
"Residents here will remember the fatal landslide in 2009 that killed three people living in a home below an irrigation canal that hugged a steep hillside in Logan.
The tragedy prompted a total reconstruction of the canal system and sparked controversy across Cache County. Engineers have completely rebuilt much of the canal, enclosing portions of it in concrete culverts and pipes. It’s been a three-year process to reconfigure the canals, meaning shareholders and farmers along the waterways have gone without water since the breach.
“Those canals are our lifeblood,” said Keith Meikle, a spokesman for canal users. “Our shareholders have suffered for over three years, receiving 30 percent less income based on the water they’ve received. Last year was a drought year and it was tough on them. And it was heartbreaking as a representative to look at their ground and see that hay burning and see their grain burning, and imagine how they were going to hold five-generation farms into the next generation.”
Combined, the Logan and Northern; and Logan-Hyde Park -Smithfield canals irrigate 12,000 acres of land. Dave Brown of the Natural Resource Conservation Service says the new improvements to the canals will save 7,400 acre-feet of water per year. Brown says the new system also improves natural flow in the Logan River during summer months. He says the project also came in under budget and ahead of schedule.
Jon Meikle, president of the Logan and Northern Canal, says the improved water system will affect life in Cache Valley for generations to come.
“Logan’s culinary water is affected by the canal flow,” he said. “As well as Hyde Park and Smithfield are heavily impacted. And in the future the delivery of this water, as population increases, is going to become even more critical.”
Work isn’t completely finished yet. It will take months to restore landscaping around the new waterways which residents say is forever changed now that the canal is no longer exposed. For Utah Public Radio, I’m Matt Jensen.
Correction: An earlier version of the story noted the canal projects supply culinary water to Cache Valley residents directly. They do not. Culinary water supplies for residents in Logan, Hyde Park and Smithfield are affected through exchange agreements with irrigation companies which are affected by canal flows.