Discrepancies in the City’s Narrative for Piping the Ashland Canal

Discrepancies in the Narrative for piping the Canal

The main reasons given for piping a 2-mile section of an otherwise 20-mile open canal are evaporation and E-coli. The evaporation rate originally provided by the Department of Public Works was 2%, which later increased to 9%. The 9% rate is not sustained by valid regional data observations of evaporation rates published by NOAA/National Weather Service or the US Bureau of Reclamation, whose rate is actually about 1.5 %. What is the factual basis for stating 62 million gallons a year is “lost” to evaporation? Isn’t evaporation a closed system in nature, so does water ever get “lost”, or is it recycled and returned as rain? Considering this project pipes 2 miles out of 20, how does this really make any difference in evaporation when the majority of the canal will remain open? In the Siskiyou Bio-Survey environmental report it recommends supplemental watering for 10 years to keep trees along the canal from dying once it is piped. In view of that, how is piping that section conserving water?

The study that referenced E-coli levels is decades old, and may not reflect current conditions. There are thousands of species of E-coli, only a few of which are deleterious to human health. The study did not differentiate between the different strains but instead lumped them all together. New scientific evidence presented to the City Council debunks this claim, so why is this old study being used as a basis for E-coli measurement? Additionally, how will piping a 2-mile section of the canal make any difference in E-coli levels when E-coli exists at the source and comes down the open 18-mile section? The E-coli in the water would simply flow in the pipe, pipes carry E-coli as well.

In the last City Council meeting, emotionally laden terms such as “climate change” and “the future of our children” were thrown out as a narrative in favor of piping the canal…yet what about the 300 trees the environmental report states need to be removed? What about the hundreds of additional trees along that 2-mile section that will dry up and die once the canal is piped? What effect will the loss of hundreds of trees have on climate change? That area will become a fire hazard, and firefighters will no longer have access to the canal water. What about the wildlife that drink from the canal and live in the trees slated for removal? Will they come further down into town and cause issues?

What about the cost of piping this small section? The project started out at an estimated cost of 1 million, then rose to 4 million and could easily double or triple considering the yet many unknown costs. Why not choose the Citizens Alternative (shotcrete liner) that meets the city goal of overall water efficiency for a fraction of the pipe cost, both with a 50- year guarantee? The much less expensive alternative also saves hundreds of trees and does not cause destruction to 86 Ashland property owners along the proposed route. What are the estimates for repairing the damage to driveways, landscaping, foundations and properties for the 86 homes that will be forced to endure construction and destruction? What about funds to pay for the lawsuits that will inevitably be filed?  Are the residents of Ashland aware that their utility rates and taxes will rise in order to pay for this project? Why not choose the option of re-lining the canal at a fraction of the cost, with no property destruction, no tree losses and the preservation of the beautiful and iconic Ashland canal that residents enjoy walking along?

Please come to the final vote on piping the canal and voice your opposition to having to pay for a 4-12 million dollar project for a 2 mile section of Ashland’s iconic canal. Vote no to the removal of 300+ trees and the destruction of ecosystems and wildlife. Oppose the destruction of 86 properties along the route. Vote to keep our beautiful canal and stop our utility rates/taxes from being raised.

The final City Council vote is on Tuesday November 19, 2019 at 6pm, council chambers 1175 Main Street.

Max Lowen, Ashland