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Westwood's wet; residents ask for county help

Sun Advocate associate editor

Vaughn Olson has had to put three sump pumps in the basement of his home in Westwood subdivision, trying to get rid of some 1,600 gallons of ground water seeping in every day during the summer this year. "I've done all I can do," he told the county commission last Wednesday.

Olson and about a dozen of his neighbors showed up to see if there was anything the county could do to help. The answer was, not much. The property in the subdivision just west of Price is private, as is the Carbon Canal, an open waterway that courses through the neighborhood.

Olson said he's aware of why the area is wet. The water table around there is high because there's a stratum of shale close to the surface. During irrigation and runoff season, especially in a heavy water year like this one, water has nowhere to go but across the shale and into basements. That area was swampland before it was developed.

But he also noted that he has examined the canal and found that the liner in it is torn, which he thought was compounding the problem by allowing irrigation water to seep into the ground.

Olson wondered if it would be possible to pipe the water through the section of canal that runs through Westwood. That would help with the flooding situation and would also remove a safety hazard for neighborhood children, he said.

It turns out there is a concept and a desire on the part of the Carbon Canal Company to pipe the entire 30-mile length of the canal. However, Collin Fawcett of Jones & DeMille Engineering told the commission that project could cost as much as $70 million. The canal company has been seeking help to fund the design and construction of the high-density plastic pipeline for years.

"We clearly understand the concerns of these people," said canal board member Nick Sampinos, "but we don't have the money."

Also, he reminded the residents and commission, "The canal was there first." Sampinos explained that what he said might sound harsh, but the residential development happened without any encouragement from the canal company. Carbon Canal Co. continues to seek funding for the pipeline for water conservation and flood control, he added.

Fawcett said that short-term, site-specific solutions such as concrete channel or lining with bentonite would probably not work. The soil conditions are too unstable. A concrete lining, for example, would crumble as the ground shifted. However, commissioner Mike Milovich did ask the engineering firm to give some thought to any other options that might work.

Also, the canal may not be entirely to blame. Underground water sources could be contributing to the wet soils, Fawcett said in an interview Tuesday, but that will take a lot of subsurface study to determine where and how much is migrating in.

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