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Canal breach floods multiple Murray homes

Published April 28, 2013 10:49 am

Canal spokesman questions building homes next to dams.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The wall of water that poured into Scott Goodman's Murray home when the North Jordan Canal breached on Saturday was so fast and forceful that it broke through a door and then swallowed his basement whole.

Within no time, the family workout room, a children's playroom, a spare bedroom and a kitchen were under more than eight feet of water.

"There isn't room for air in there," said Goodman, whose home, 1203 W. Saddle Bluff Dr. (6756 South), sits just east of the canal. "It's all gone. It's a total loss."

Goodman was among at least eight homeowners in the neighborhood with damaged properties after the leaking canal broke through its earthen banks about 4 p.m. The full extent of the damage caused by the breach remained unknown Saturday night.

It also was not immediately clear what caused the leak or the breach, Boyd Simper, the secretary and treasurer of the North Jordan Canal Irrigation Company, told The Salt Lake Tribune Saturday.

Irrigation water, which serves some 3,400 shareholders, typically moves through the canal at a rate of 70 cubic feet per second, Simper said. Water for the canal, which was built in the 1800s, originates from the Jordan River and several valley cities also divert their storm drain water to the canal, he said.

"We did our cleaning and inspected the canal two weeks ago," said Simper, adding that there were no signs of problems at the time. "We have people watching that canal 24 hours a day. It's just one of those things that we didn't pick up on."

Irrigation company staff, working in conjunction with Salt Lake County flood control officers, on Saturday diverted water away from the canal and put a temporary dam in place, Simper said.

The breach not only took out the canal bank, but also took out the core of the canal's bottom at the spot where the breach occurred, he said.

"It's an unfortunate situation. We feel bad for the homeowners, because that's a lot of water, but I don't know why someone would build a home next door to a dam or a structure that holds water."

Goodman, 46, said that from his home he could see a "20-foot-wide gaping hole" in the canal bank. The rushing water also delivered about two feet of silt and debris to the end of his driveway.

He said his wife had left repeated messages for the company that manages the canal, but received no return call Saturday. Neighbors believe it took more than hour for the canal company to respond to the breach, Goodman said..

"We won't call them," Simper told The Tribune. "We'll be turning it over to our insurance company."

Goodman said that from his home he could see a "20-foot-wide gaping hole" in the canal bank. The rushing water also delivered about two feet of silt and debris to the end of his driveway.

This is not the first time the canal has wreaked wet havoc on the neighborhood, said Goodman, who has lived there for eight years and shares the home with his wife and two young children. Less than a year ago, a "large" leak at a site about 20 feet from Saturday's breach area damaged other homes, he said. The leak was repaired and neighbors were told that another leak was unlikely, Goodman said.

Simper could not remember the date of the previous leak, but said canal water only damaged the property of one homeowner and did not get inside the home.

On Saturday, Goodman was at baseball practice when his wife called and told him to rush home. Turning the corner into the neighborhood, Goodman said he was greeted by a moving river of water in the driveway. The family worked to move a motor home and get treasured things out of the home, but after the basement door was knocked down Goodman decided it was time to leave before anyone was injured.

"We got some things out, but not enough," he said. "There's a lot of personal stuff down in the basement."

Goodman's family planned to stay with relatives Saturday night, but they weren't sure what they might do next. Goodman also said he didn't know if it would be safe to reenter the home to retrieve items from the upper levels of the home.

jdobner@sltrib.com