When Charlie Boyer put the finishing touches on his basement last winter, he didn't expect to lose his home five months later.
But all the sweat and hard work Boyer put into remodeling his home was washed away May 22 when water from a break in the Murdock Canal flooded his home and yard."I just finished my basement, and now it's gone," he said. "I spent two years to get my home fixed up, and then in three or four hours it is destroyed."
Boyer, a retired installer for Western Electric, is one of 30 homeowners in Lindon with significant damage to their homes. Because the soil has shifted, Boyer's foundation is shifting and cracking. He says his home is a total loss; insurance agents have estimated that it will cost $180,000 to replace.
Lindon Mayor Kenneth McMillan estimates that the flood caused almost $800,000 in damage - $500,000 to private property and about $300,000 to public property. And so far no payments of any kind for damage have been made.
The insurance company of the Provo River Water Users Association, the owner and operator of the canal, is "denying any liability whatsoever unless they find that the canal broke because of neglect," McMillan said.
Jim Dain, representing a group of owners of damaged homes, said Admiral Insurance has said it is not liable but will offer a settlement of 50 cents on the dollar.
In a meeting Aug. 1, the company will make the offer to every homeowner. Dain said it is offering that amount hoping to stay out of court, but "it is not going to do it. Most homeowners just can't afford it (a 50-cents-on-the-dollar settlement). I don't think it's fair."
Boyer said: "There is no way I can accept that amount. It's their water that destroyed my house."
Dain and the 30 homeowners hope the canal company will offer some assistance to make up the difference, but they won't know until Monday.
"We are a little bit in limbo as far as the decision goes."
Dain said the homeowners group was organized to improve communication. "It's been good therapy for us. We've cried on each other's shoulders."
Boyer and his wife say they have been under stress not knowing what will happen, not only to their home but also to their lives. After the home was remodeled, they planned to sit back and enjoy retired life. Their homeowners insurance does not cover flood damage.
"I think about it when I go to bed and when I get up. I still don't know if my home is safe to live in."
Engineers believe that the canal failure was caused by animal burrows and triggered by an unusual flow of high water. That report came from an engineering firm that is part of a committee organized by McMillan. The committee was put together to determine why the canal broke and what other areas in the canal are possibly in danger of breaking.
A final report from that committee - two geologists, a soil scientist, an engineer, a canal operator and a resident of the damaged neighborhood - is partially completed.
The mayor said the water users association admits the water level in the canal was much higher than normal but was within acceptable limits. The water did not flood over the top. Water seeped through the soil, washing a hole through it and causing it to cave in.
After the flood, McMillan said he went to a number of organizations for help but only got aid from the Red Cross and members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The Red Cross gave financial help to several families by providing emergency items. LDS Church members donated time to fill sandbags and clean out mud-filled homes.
But McMillan said they have "not received any kind of government assistance for disasters from anyone."
The city asked for help from the state Department of Public Safety's emergency management office but was told that the office doesn't have a disaster relief fund.
The city also went to a federal agency, the Federal Emergency Management Association, for help but was turned down because the disaster was too small.
Utah County does not have a disaster fund.
The canal is fed by the Provo River and Deer Creek Reservoir. The water users association runs the canal under a contract with the Bureau of Reclamation.