Fund to Help Residents on Saddle Bluff DriveOct 04, 2016 02:16PM ● By Tyler Warren
Landscaping features could weaken the structural integrity of the embankment—City Journals
By Tyler Warren | tyler.w @mycityjournals.com
When the Jordan Canal breached in April 2013, the scene on Saddle Bluff Drive resembled a post-Katrina nightmare. The breach opened up a chasm in the side of the canal, releasing thousands of gallons of water, which scattered boulders and flooded the basements of multiple homes.
After the flood, the community came together to clean the mess. Councilman Dave Nicponski was there after the breach. “I was there the day after it happened, to help do what I could, which wasn’t much,” he admitted. He described being shocked at the extent of the damage. “It’s really amazing to see what a wall of water can do.”
The North Jordan Canal Company repaired the canal and installed a plastic liner along the damaged section to keep water out of the embankment.
But three years later, questions have again arisen about the retaining wall’s structural integrity. In an effort to keep something like this from happening in the future, Murray hired AGEC, an environmental consulting company to perform an analysis.
“The city retained a geotechnical engineer,” said City Attorney Frank Nakamura. “They examined the landscape, the vegetation and the watering.”
The report found all but one of the properties fell within an appropriate safety margin so long as the water was prevented from seeping into the canal embankment.
However, if the liner was penetrated, it could put several other homes at risk. The report named vegetation as one threat to the structural integrity of the canal. Other threats included rodents and irrigation systems on nearly every property that spray water on the embankment.
Homeowners are not forbidden from landscaping within their property. But the report found landscaping features that could compromise the structural integrity of the embankment. For example, the report identified water features on two separate properties, which are installed on the slope.
In order to protect homes on Saddle Bluff Drive, the report recommended avoiding planting trees and large shrubs on the embankment and removing any already in place. It recommended moving sprinkler systems off the slope, and preventing rodents from burrowing into the embankment.
Finally, to improve the slope’s stability, the report concluded that on some properties it should be flattened. This could mean adding soil to the slope’s toe, or redesigning rock features that lie on almost every property.
Removing vegetation currently in place on the embankment means killing and removing their roots as well—a relatively expensive proposition for homeowners.
“We had a meeting subsequent to the report and homeowners expressed that they were willing to implement some of the mitigation recommendations of the geotechnical engineer. But, in some cases, they would need some financial assistance,” Nakamura said.
Nakamura said that it is often difficult for government to step in when issues involve private property. They cannot tell people what to do unless there is a law being broken. Fortunately, in this case, homeowners were accommodating, and for good reason. Nobody wants to see a repeat of 2013.
To assist homeowners in repairing the embankment, the City set up a matching fund of $10,000 with Salt Lake County. The North Jordan Canal Company contributed an additional $10,000.
“We’re going to do what we can to protect those residents, and this money will go a long way to support that,” Nicponski said of the fund.
Homeowners can request money from this fund to follow the recommendations of the geotechnical engineer. The fund will be available until it runs out or until June 2017.