Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
MURRAY — North Jordan Canal Company officials have hired an engineer to begin testing the integrity of a canal to determine what cased it to breach Saturday, sending a cascade of mud, rock and water into several residents' homes.
Boyd Simper, the company's secretary/treasurer, said Sunday that he is "98 percent" sure the costs of damages to homeowners will be covered by the canal's insurance policy. He also said the canal company's board will be reviewing proposals on how to repair the canal and prevent similar floods in the future.
"I hope they don't have the opinion that we've left them abandoned," he said of the effected families who live along Saddle Bluff Drive just west of the Jordan River Parkway. "Rest assured, we are not."
But some residents believe canal officials should have anticipated the breach and done more to prevent it. After a number of smaller leaks occurred in the area, they believe the company was aware that the neighborhood was at risk for major flooding.
"They knew this was going to happen," said homeowner Jessica Goodman. "That's what bugs me."
Cleanup was in full force Sunday as residents and neighbors worked with shovels, buckets, wheelbarrows and heavy equipment to clear mud and debris from basements and lawns.
At the Goodman home, which sustained the brunt of the flooding, stones the size of laundry baskets were scattered across the driveway leading back to a craterous channel that had opened up in the backyard.
Goodman said she first noticed water bubbling up out of the ground, but after about an hour the earth gave way, filling her home with water up to the basement ceiling.
"It was like a big waterfall," she said. "They pumped out 8,000 gallons of water last night and they're still not done."
Last year a smaller canal leak damaged the property of John Brown, a next-door neighbor to the Goodmans, who also received between 3 and 4 feet of flooding in his basement yesterday.
Brown said after the last leak, officials with the canal and insurance companies responded positively to the damage on his property, but he added that it's disconcerting to see another, larger leak in such a short period of time.
"Obviously the sand is not going to hold water back," he said. "My family is safe, that's the important thing."
The Goodmans also questioned whether the canal company could have predicted the breach given the number of smaller incidents in the past. Scott Goodman said he had spoken with a representative from the insurance company who did not give many specifics but said simply, "We'll take care of this."
"This is just senseless," Scott Goodman said. "It didn't need to happen."
Simper said the canal company had no knowledge or indications of an impending breach. He said officials responded to the smaller leaks last year and believed the canal had been shored up in that particular area.
"We're dealing with Mother Nature and sometimes she does what she wants," Simper said.
The canal has been in place since 1894, Simper said, compared to the relatively recent residential development in the area. He said homeowners landscape their properties in the way they see fit, but in some cases those decisions do not contribute to the protection of a canal bank.
"They knew the risks when they moved in there," he said. "You're living beneath a canal."
Simper said water flow will remain shut off until the canal is adequately repaired and reinforced. He said at the time of the breach, the water was flowing at roughly 70 cubic feet per second.
Scott Archbold, a homeowner whose property was narrowly outside the water's path, was among those lending a hand Sunday morning. He said he was away from home when the breach began and by the time he returned, there were river rapids gushing down the street.
"It's very disconcerting," he said. "It makes us feel stupid for living here."
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