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| Wrona DuBois, P.L.L.C.

The state Water Development Commission has favorably reviewed a proposed bill aimed at improving canal safety by requiring canal companies to conduct risk assessments for ruptures that could threaten utilities, roads or homes. This is the second bill that has been presented in the wake of the Logan Northern Canal failure that claimed the lives of a family of three.

HB60, passed in the last legislative session, requires canal companies to prepare management plans to address potential risks if they want to receive state funding. The latest proposal, SB185, goes further by requiring risk assessments of all canals and repair plans for identified high risk areas. The bill further allows those canal companies that comply to apply for state assistance loans or grants. Those companies that fail to comply will be barred from tapping into any such state funds.

Both bills shield information gathered by canal companies from the public, including the critical information of identified trouble spots. Those in support of these secrecy provisions argue that open access would discourage the canal companies from identifying trouble spots. This argument is misguided. Canal companies have demonstrated over the years that they are incapable of self-policing, and the result has been loss of human life and extensive property damage. Public access to information allows the full light of day to be shone on problem areas which will encourage corrective action. Shielding canal companies from this scrutiny is counter-productive and dangerous.

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