Citizen Praises Staff for Attempt to Pipe the Ashland Canal (02/22/2020 article)

Thanks for trying to pipe the canal
(A response to this article in the 02/22/2020 Tidings will be posted here on 03/01/2020.)

The imminent retirement of Public Works Director Paula Brown is bad news for Ashland. I hope 2019 was not the cause.

I would like to thank all the city staff who worked on the project to pipe the irrigation canal that flows through town. In the course of doing their job, these staffers received abuse from anti-pipers. Paula Brown deserves thanks from all of us, not abuse.

Piping the canal is the right thing to do. First and foremost, this is a project to increase water availability, an appropriate city function. Piping is also a strategic response to a future of more extreme weather. Finally, the project simply completes an objective in an approved master plan.

Unfortunately the City Council voted against piping the irrigation canal. This was a victory for narrow self-interest over the public good.

One councilor claimed a no vote was in part a vote to protect wildlife. In fact, voting no increases risk for wildlife. Our water comes from three sources: Ashland Creek, the canal and the Medford Water Commission (TAP). Without the pipe we lose a lot of water in one of our three water sources. The result is that we will have an even bigger impact on the other two sources of water during drought: Ashland Creek and the Rogue River (if water from TAP is used). Far more species will be affected when we drain Ashland Creek to a trickle and stress its valuable riparian vegetation.

One of the most vocal anti-pipers, Carol Voisin, chimed in about the bacterium found in poop that has been linked to the open canal. If I remember correctly, Voisin basically told her fellow community members to “deal with it.” While fecal bacteria are always present at some level, I disagree with the sentiment that health advisories in Ashland Creek are something we should simply accept.

An unfortunate fact of public infrastructure is the cost — projects are expensive! That did not sit well with some budget hawks in the community. I will just state that we Ashlanders don’t have a right to benefit from projects built by past generations without paying the bills to maintain and build infrastructure ourselves. This is an issue of personal responsibility, the lack of which is our biggest problem in society today.

Maybe the rest of us need to respond with a ballot initiative to pipe all canals and irrigation ditches in the city. Saving water is a critical public interest. The more time we waste delaying this project, the more at risk we are of experiencing a summer in which Ashland dries up.

Dan Van Dyke