When subdivisions move into areas where once there was only farmland and irrigation canals, the mixing of land uses can result in legal disputes and flooded basements.
Sandy residents who are worried about soggy basements and safety are pushing for action by Sandy City and the Draper Irrigation Co. on one such problem.The matter is urgent, the homeowners say, because water will start flowing again in the Draper Irrigation Canal next month.
The residents say 30 to 35 homes between 114th and 110th South near 855 East have had flooding problems. Russ Bartlett, who lives at 11024 S. Hawkwood Drive, said his house had water coming in 24 hours a day from about May 15 to the end of November last year.
And the residents say about 1,100 schoolchildren attending Altara Elementary School are endangered by the open canal, which runs right next to the school grounds.
"The fencing is inadequate, and there are two homes that don't have fencing behind them," and children go over or through the fence to play by the canal all the time, said Kurt Rowley, a spokesman for the residents.
He said Sandy officials are finally moving to resolve the problem after more than 20 residents crowded a City Council meeting about three weeks ago.
Bartlett said that before they packed the meeting, the homeowners had gotten no cooperation from the city or irrigation company, despite more than a year of complaints.
Sandy Public Works Director Darrel Scow disagreed that city officials had ignored the pleas for help. And residents said Scow is being quite helpful now in trying to work out a solution.
Scow said Sandy is willing to pay half the cost of lining the offending stretch of canal if Draper Irrigation will pay the other half. He said the job could cost $20,000, but it might be less if the company will allow city crews in to do some of the work.
But Draper Irrigation President Noel Enniss said Sandy is 100 percent liable, because the city issued the permits for people to build near the canal, which has been there since the early 1920s.
He said the company's board will discuss the problem at a meeting Wednesday night and things could change.
But he stressed that the issue is part of a larger picture. If the company pays to line one part of the canal, residents along other stretches of the 12-mile waterway could demand the same thing. "Our question is, where does it all end?"
Enniss said the company is looking into piping the water in the canal, but that won't be done this year or next. He said Salt Lake County Flood Control also has a contract to use the canal for flood control purposes, so it would have to be involved in any major changes.
The company's insurer settled with one or two residents last summer by agreeing to pay half the cost of repairs to their homes, but W.S. Mickelsen, Draper Irrigation's secretary, said the company does not view that as any admission of liability. It was strictly a case in which settling was cheaper than fighting in court, he said.