irrigation canal

An irrigation canal runs through the Island area of Logan as seen last week.

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Cache Water District has launched an environmental evaluation in the Logan River Watershed to study possible flood and efficient water use solutions in Cache County.

The proposal for federal Natural Resources Conservation Service funding was submitted by the Cache Water District.

One option would pipe and pressurize canals — in Logan, North Logan and Hyde Park — serviced by Crockett Avenue Irrigation and Distribution, Inc, which could leave the existing open canals, like those on the Island in Logan, to help mitigate flood risks.

“Over the last decade or two, the three cities involved and the canal companies have done a number of different studies,” said Nathan Daugs, the manager of the water district, in a virtual presentation on the Logan River Watershed to the public. “The cities have been looking at how to solve some of their flood-control issues for decades, and that just continues to get worse and worse.”

The risks continue to rise with population increases and development encroaching on canals.

J-U-B Engineers, who worked on a study to determine if pressurized irrigation would best benefit the Crockett Avenue system in 2016, were also selected for the new, more in-depth evaluation of the watershed.

Some of the information from the first Crockett Avenue study — which would have cost at least $80 million — will help with the new evaluation, such as locations of canal service areas and flow rates of the river, which can help determine how much water needs to stay in the Logan River to maintain a healthy environment.

“The Logan river is at the heart of this watershed, and it’s at the heart of our agricultural and irrigation systems on the eastern side of the valley,” said Zan Murray with J-U-B Engineers. “And so we want to be able to enhance those conditions, if possible, and maintain those environmental conditions along the river.”

The first phase of the NRCS grant will fund up to $25 million for flood mitigation, irrigation improvements and recreational options along the watershed, and the full evaluation is funded for up to $600,000.

If the final environmental evaluation and preferred plans are approved by NRCS, grants will be written to fund the project’s design and construction.

And not all aspects of the plans that are submitted may go through, Daugs said, depending on funding and individual cities’ needs.

The project is hoping to address multiple challenges, such as more efficient water use and even possible recreation and trail creation.

“We have these issues in the watershed, the biggest one being flooding issues, and number two what we could do to improve water efficiency in the watershed,” Daugs said. “Piping the canals may come out as the best option of (the study) … but at this point we’re not ready to make that statement.”

Though the steps that will be taken to address the challenges facing the canal system have yet to be determined, “no action is not a viable option,” according to the proposal, sent on April 10, 2020.

“The existing canals do not provide adequate capacity to carry the total runoff flows that are produced by any of the peak flow scenarios developed as part of the 2015 Drainage Study,” the proposal states. “If no action is taken, the canals would continue to overtop, flood residents, and continue to have negative impacts on culinary and irrigation water systems.”

There are 674 homes currently at risk of flooding in Logan, alone, according to Cache County’s 2013 American Community Survey, and there’s a potential of $51 million in damages if such a flood were to occur.

In addition to flood prevention, piping and pressurizing the canals for more efficient water use, the project is hoping to maintain and enhance environmental conditions and recreational opportunities in the watershed while reducing culinary water infrastructure needs.

“Our job (as a water district), or one of our founding principles, is to preserve and protect water in Cache Valley,” said Jeannie Simmonds with the Cache Water District and Logan Municipal Council. “So if indeed this (project) helps to preserve and protect water, that would meet the objectives of the water district.”

The environmental scoping phase has just begun, and public comment will be taken until Feb. 16.

“Until we go through the whole process, we really won’t know if we’ll pipe this canal or that canal,” Daugs told The Herald Journal. “We won’t know for the next 12-18 months. After that, we’ll have concrete proposals for what we want to do.”

The environmental analysis phase is expected to take approximately two years.

Official comments to be considered can be emailed to NRCS and J-U-B at loganriver@utwatershed.com, with “Logan River Watershed Plan comment” in the subject line, or through postcards available at the Historic Cache County Courthouse.

More information is available at http://bit.ly/LoganRiverWatershed.

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