Plans in Place to Enclose 100-year-old Provo Canal


$150 million project to enclose all 21 miles of the Provo Reservoir Canal.

PROVO — A $150 million project to enclose all 21 miles of the Provo Reservoir Canal, also known as the Murdock Canal, in north Utah County will begin in October.

Enclosing the canal, which runs from the mouth of Provo Canyon to Point of the Mountain, will save water, increase the water-carrying capacity of the canal and create a trail system through north Utah County, officials said.

It also will enclose one of the area's most inviting nuisances — an open canal with steep banks. In its 100-year history, the canal has claimed between 30 and 40 lives, and it poses a flooding threat to nearby homes.

Ames Construction, based in Burnsville, Minn., with a regional office in West Valley City, was announced Tuesday as the contractor for the project. The 101/2-foot steel pipe will be manufactured at Northwest Pipe Co.'s Pleasant Grove plant.

The construction contract calls for the enclosing of the canal to be completed by spring 2013, but the contractor has an incentive to finish the work earlier.

"We've offered them a $1 million dollar incentive if they will be done by the spring of 2012," said Steve Cain, facilities and land manager for the Provo River Water Users, which operates the canal.

When completed, the enclosed canal will have the capacity to carry more than 400 million gallons of water daily.

Other participants in the project include the Metropolitan Water District of Salt Lake City and Sandy, the Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District, the Central Utah Water Conservancy District and the Provo Reservoir Water Users Association.

Reclamation will oversee project construction and inspection. In 2004, Congress passed legislation to allow the association to take title to the facility when the project is completed.

"It needs to be done for the safety or our (residents) and for the canal, as it is now decades old," said Chris Finlinson, spokeswoman for the Central Utah Water Conservancy District, which is paying half the cost of the project. "We are only one bolt hole away from major property damage."

In return for investment, the district will receive 8,000 square feet of water a year for use in the Provo River to protect endangered species like the June sucker. That represents water now lost through evaporation and seepage. The district also will received 50 cubic square feet of water delivery capacity in the new pipe.

Other funding will come from a $60 million loan from the Utah Board of Water Resources, as well as the U.S. Department of the Interior and other sources.

Timing for the project has been serendipitous, Cain said.

"It's a good bidding climate," he said. "The price of steel is down. The cost was improved by almost $2 million by ordering the steel on the day we did. Interest rates are also very low for us."

Mike Wray, operations manager for Northwest Pipe, said the project couldn't have come at a better time.

"It's a substantial project," said Wray, whose company is making preparations to manufacture the 126-inch diameter pipe. "Pipe this large for that many miles, you don't see that every day. We will be hiring people and ramping up our workforce."

Cain said awarding the contract for the canal is the culmination of many years of negotiations.

"It was put in our master plan 15 years ago," he said.

The project is planned for at least two phases. This fall, when the irrigation season ends and the canal is drained, crews will begin laying pipe for the area between 200 South in Pleasant Grove and Main Street in Lehi. That summer, pipe will be laid between Lehi and Point of the Mountain.

When the canal is drained in fall 2011, crews will begin laying pipe from Pleasant Grove to the syphon at the mouth of Provo Canyon.

Source: Deseret News, by Marc Haddock