Feds: Eliminate or re-route Logan's killer canal

Saying the current location isn't viable, federal engineers propose two alternatives.
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The Logan Northern Canal, which broke July 11 in a mudslide that killed three people, would be rerouted or eliminated under two plans drafted by federal engineers.

One proposal would eliminate the canal and re-route water north to the Logan, Hyde Park, Smithfield Canal Co.

The second option would keep the Logan Northern Canal largely intact, but bypass the treacherous hillsides that gave way earlier this month by installing pipes under Canyon Road in The Island neighborhood of Logan.

Shareholders, cities and engineers must reach a consensus on which plan to pursue, said Bronson Smart, an engineer for the U.S. Department of Agriculture [USDA]. Either would have steep costs.

Jon Wells, who sits on the board of the Smithfield Canal, said that waterway would have to be improved if it were to accept water from the Logan Northern Canal. He said it is estimated to cost $17.2 million just for the construction in Logan Canyon and through part of the city of Logan.

"It just depends on funding whether or not it can be done," Wells said.

It's unclear who would pay the costs of any change. Wells said the two canal companies could not pay the costs alone and would seek money from the USDA.

Cities along the canals' routes rely on them to help with storm runoff and might be asked to help pay, too, Smart said.

Smart said it is not an option to repair and restore the Logan Northern Canal as it was.

"It really shouldn't have water in it just due to the high groundwater in the area and the history of landslides," Smart said.

The USDA analysis was funded with a $400,000 earmark secured last week by Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah.

Smart said Logan Northern Canal officials have been briefed on the two ideas. Andrew Wright, an attorney for the canal, said owners are "not sure yet" what the future of their canal will be.

Under the option that would phase out the Logan Northern Canal, the head gate and opening of the Smithfield Canal would be widened and improved. It wouldn't be easy -- the start of the canal sits on a rock ledge in Logan Canyon.

"I joke with my guys about having some kind of extreme engineering reality television show here," Smart said.

The remainder of the Smithfield Canal would be improved, too, so it could take 250 cubic feet per second, or about 112,000 gallons per minute, Smart said. Currently, that canal takes 110 cubic feet per second.

At 1700 North in Logan, a pipe would divert some of the water out of the canal and carry it west to shareholders from the Logan Northern Canal. In all, construction could take a year, Smart said.

"I think it's quite feasible," Wells said. "Whether or not the entire length of the Logan, Hyde Park, Smithfield Canal can be improved remains to be seen."

The option to continue using the Logan Northern Canal, with a new bypass of the Island neighborhood, could be just as expensive as eliminating the canal, Smart said. A dollar estimate is not yet available.

Construction crews would have to dig deep under Canyon Road to lay the water pipes, Smart said. Traffic and utilities would have to be interrupted through a major stretch of Logan.

Teresa Harris, public information officer for the city of Logan, said the two options have not been discussed enough for city officials to have a preference. The city council met Tuesday night, but did not review the two proposals.

Public works director Mark Nielsen told council members that the city is working with the Logan Northern Canal to provide water to farmers downstream from the break. However, the city stopped its brief use of a pump in the landslide area, he said, after residents complained canal water was flowing back into the neighborhood.

He also said the city does yet know when or whether two homes -- on each side of the destroyed home of Jacqueline Leavey -- will be inhabitable. Leavey and her two children were killed in the July 11 slide.

City attorney Kymber Housley added the city is trying to facilitate an evaluation of the safety of the hillside.

Tribune reporter Brooke Adams contributed to this report.