Facts that Support Keeping the Ashland Canal Open

Facts Drive Support for Leaving Canal Open (Updated 2/11/2020)

The unrelated fields of scientific research, medical research, and law have a golden thread that unites them – seeking the truth.   Our goal – extend that thread into Ashland municipal projects.

On November 19, 2019, the Ashland City Council and Mayor, after informed deliberation and in a final vote, rejected the piping option for Ashland’s TID canal repair.  Then, inexplicably, like the mythical Phoenix rising from its ashes, a guest opinion (Tidings,1/8/20) re-litigated this vote melding open-canal nostalgia with Ashland Public Works provided data.  The errors in these data need illumination and correction.

ECONOMIC – Historically, municipal projects have cost overruns from original estimate to final costs.  Some examples are AFN ($3 to $15 million = 400%), TAP Waterline ($2.2 to $12 million = 445%), the proposed New Water Plant ($23 to current estimate ~$40 million= 74%), and TID canal piping ($1.1 to ~$3.5 million = 218%), averaging 284% for these examples. Using this average, a predicted final piping cost would be ~$4.25 million.  This requires more scrutiny, like the shifting pricing of the Ashland Public Works Option-1, piping. 

At Council’s final vote, Option-1 was $3,472,529. However, seven weeks later the cost dropped 10.9% (~$378,000) to $3,095,000 (Tidings,1/8/20).  In contrast, the Ashland Public Works rejected option (Repair and Reseal) had a yearly maintenance price increase from an inflated $45K to $50K/year, an 11.1% increase over the same seven weeks (Tidings,1/8/20).

Public information at the time of Council’s final vote indicated the difference in capital cost between the costly Option-1 and Repair and Reseal was ~$1.9 million.  This difference, divided by Ashland Public Work’s inflated $45K yearly maintenance for Repair and Reseal, yields the number 43.  This number represents the years the Repair and Reseal option could be maintained just to reach the initial cost of favored Option 1, not counting Option-1’s yearly maintenance over these 43 years (~$538,000).

ENVIRONMENTAL – Informed decisions for Ashland’s TID canal require accurate data, and such numbers, except one, are found in the Ashland Public Work’s commissioned Adkins Engineering report.

Seepage studies by Adkins Engineering (Table 5-3) indicate the open canal (~1.4 miles) can be classified into three segments: poor (23%), fair (50%) and good (27%). Percolation tests for these segments indicated total seasonal seepage of ~60.8 million gallons, and seasonal evaporation loss of ~1.1 million gallons, or ~1.8% of total losses of ~62 million gallons.  Further examination of these data expose repeated publicized non-factual values.

The frequently cited Ashland Public Works values of 9% evaporation and 23% water loss are wrong!  The Adkins Engineering data clearly demonstrate ~1.8% evaporation, not the factually unsupported 9%.  Secondly, the official Ashland Public Works value for total TID water delivery to Ashland is 1369 ac-ft, not the 840 ac-ft used by Adkins Engineering (p5-5).  Keeping total seasonal water loss constant at ~62 million gallons and dividing that by the incorrect value of 840 ac-ft (in gallons), yields the frequently cited incorrect water loss at ~23%. However, when substituting the actual delivery of 1369 ac-ft (in gallons) into this calculation, the correct total loss is ~14%.

Viewing TID water loss within the context of the overall Ashland water budget is quite illuminating.  Data from the City of Ashland website shows household consumption averages ~2.43 million gallons per day.  This, compared to the total seasonal evaporation loss (~1.1 million gallons) demonstrates that evaporation accounts for only 11 hours of household use during only one day out of 365 days/year!  Evaporation is zero during the ~200 days TID is off!

SINS OF OMISSION – The silence about trees and private property is deafening.  At Ashland’s north entrance a sign announces “Tree City, USA” for 30+ years.  When asked at Council meetings how many trees would be cut or destroyed by the piping option, the common answer was “…oh, about 100…”.  In contrast, the Adkins Engineering report (p1-1) clearly states that up to 284 trees would be “in conflict”.

Moreover, the needless removal and replacement of ~0.6 miles of existing underground pipes would be a major impact on the private property of 86 of our fellow Ashlanders (Adkins Engineering report, p1-1).  Emotions not only enter via nostalgia (Tidings,12/18/19;1/8/20) but in the relief of human suffering.  In the hallway outside Council Chambers after the final canal vote, two women were hugging with tears of joy streaming down their faces, knowing that their properties now would not be ravaged by chain saws and backhoes. 

OVERVIEW – “The city needs to make decisions based on what makes the most sense in terms of costs and environmental impacts” (Tidings,1/8/20) and we agree, but for the reasons enumerated above.

It is imperative to understand that both piping, and Repair and Reseal will save 98% of the total water loss!  Evaporation loss is trivial when compared to Ashland’s overall water budget.  Repair and Reseal will cost an estimated $1.9 – $2.5 million less than piping and be accomplished in four months, not the two years projected for piping.  For those with open-canal nostalgia  (Tidings, 12/18/19;1/8/20), they too can claim victory for its preservation via Repair and Reseal, both for themselves and future generations.

When viewed together, the above facts for economic, environmental, and sins of omission sustain the Council’s final decision to reject the piping option.  Repair and Reseal funding currently exists, so let’s act now!  It is amazing what following the golden thread can reveal on the path to – seeking the truth.

T. A. Nelsen

Shaun Moran                                   Both authors live in Ashland