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Bret Hanna
Bret Hanna
Attorney • 435-649-2525

Logan Northern Canal Disaster – Ninth Installment

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An Executive Water Task Force subcommittee charged with addressing canal safety issues has released a report and the upshot is that no one wants to take responsibility for canal safety, no one wants to pay for canal safety, and no one wants to pay for liability insurance to compensate victims when disasters occur. Tragic but predictable.

According to an article in the Salt Lake Tribune, the report, released Tuesday, confirms that canal companies should carry liability insurance and they should work with local authorities to manage risk assessment and control responsibilities. But neither side of that equation wants to accept those responsibilities because, you guessed it, money. The canal companies claim they can’t afford liability insurance and the cities claim they can’t afford risk management assessments. And neither wants to accept any legal responsibility for safety.

Attorneys for all involved have excuses. Dallin Jensen, speaking on behalf of various "water interests," blames "development" for the hazards rather than his clients’ lack of attention to safety issues for the current sad state of affairs. Development coming to the canals is the problem, not decades of neglect by the canal owners and managers. Nice sleight of hand when it comes to assessing responsibility.

Jodi Hoffman, speaking on behalf the Utah League of Cities of Towns, claims that local governments have no control over what canal companies do with their canals. She argues that the canal companies are not willing to give up any control so the state must step in and do something. While I don’t disagree that the state should address canal safety issues, why does that let local municipalities off the hook? Another sleight of hand.

The report contains some concrete recommendations:

  • Canal companies should be responsible for completing a Risk Management Assessment (RAM) and acquiring liability insurance.
  • All segments of all canals should be categorized as low, medium or high hazard canals based on human safety.
  • Canal companies should work in equal partnership with local cities and counties to acquire funds for RAM. This partnership is responsible for proper canal safety and improvement.
  • Canal companies should be promptly notified of all construction within or adjacent to high-hazard stretches of the canal easement.
  • Utah’s Division of Water Resources should be the public entity for housing the RAMs and proof of liability insurance. RAMs should also be distributed to local government entities with planning and zoning authority and incorporated into land use plans.

Great ideas – now we have to see if the players are willing to step up to the plate and implement them. Let’s hope so before another canal fails causing death, injury and property damage to innocent victims.