I did a series of posts in the wake of the failure of the Logan Northern Canal last summer, that claimed the lives of three people and turned a spot light on the potential dangers posed by canals in Utah. You can find them here:
Despite the significance of this tragedy, canal safety has not been in the news much lately but that changed today.
Rep. Fred Hunsaker, R-Logan, is sponsoring a bill is designed to improve canal safety. He presented a draft of the bill yesterday to the Executive Water Task Force which has been reviewing canal safety issues. In summary, the bill requires canal companies that want state loan money to file management plans that include identification of hazards and plans for canal improvements. The plans must be submitted by 2013 and updated at least once a decade.
Hunsaker’s bill may be a good start, but it does not appear to have a lot of teeth as currently written. First, canal companies that don’t want state loan monies don’t have to submit management plans. Hunsaker’s response to this loophole is that canal companies will want to make improvements and the only way they can is with state funded loans. Time will tell, I suppose, but that seems like a pretty big "if." Next, the state will not do anything with the plans other than document that they are submitted. What good does that do? Companies can submit whatever plans they like knowing that no one is reviewing them with a critical eye. Finally, it does not appear that the public will have access to the plans. The bill precludes the state from disclosing the plans but there is a fuzzy area when it comes to whether local entities that own canal company shares must also keep the plans private. Either way, the public will not have open access to the plans.
Again, the bill may be a good starting point but it seems like the public is entitled to better protections than those provided by Hunsaker’s draft.
Bret Hanna of Wrona DuBois in Utah, focuses exclusively on litigating plaintiffs’ medical malpractice and catastrophic personal injury cases. He has represented clients in state and federal courts, in mediations, and in administrative proceedings in Michigan and Utah since 1991.