Statements to the Ashland Council Regarding Piping the Ashland Canal

Statements regarding piping the Ashland TID Canal

Ashland City Council business Meeting 09/03/19

Re: Ashland Piping Project

I feel the issue before council tonight represents shared values and shared concerns. I’m certain we are all feeling the fragility of our environment in the light of climate change which serves to heighten our sense of responsibility to be the best stewards of our land and water resources, and to find solutions to environmental problems that make sense. I believe that protecting natural resources for ourselves, and our children, is a value we all share, and we all agree a solution to the problems with the Ashland Canal must be enacted. We just differ in how to enact those solutions.

The city’s Public Works staff has defined plans to meet our shared value of conserving our precious water from evaporation and seepage and reducing the amount of contaminants in the canal water. And I commend their work and motivation to protect our water supply. However, there are additional and also very important values that the community has repeatedly expressed. We have stated that we also value:

  • having finite costs and finite risks to the environment and properties over, under and adjacent to the canal
  • the historic nature of the open canal that has been here since 1929
  • the enjoyment of the healthy trees and existing ecosystems along its banks
  • safety in knowing that the canal water can be immediately accessed by the fire department
  • safety in knowing our economic resources are being used wisely and in the most conservative manner possible
  • the beauty of the canal as a unique open space with flowing water

Regrettably, the proposed solution (Alternative 1) recommended by staff does not reflect the community values I just stated.  In fact, staff has categorically dismissed these values as NIMBYism. To me, that indicates a big problem.  City staff and community members need to listen to one another and work together to create solutions that respect and protect our common values.

Many community members have provided documented testimony, hard science, research and studies describing a common sense alternate solution that will safely protect the water running through the Ashland Canal without burying it. A solution with finite costs to both the budget and the environment. I believe their work needs to be included as part of a common sense solution that the city’s Public Works staff and community can support together.

Mr. Mayor and members of city council, I believe you should not dismiss community values as NIMBYism. As elected officials promising to represent us, I ask you to include them as you consider the proposal before you as flawed and incomplete and vote NO and I urge you direct staff to craft a proposal that reflects our community values while meeting our shared values of protecting our resources, conserving water and reducing contaminants in the water of the Ashland canal. City staff and community members need to work together.

Kacky Hoffman, Ashland

Another statement:

Dozens of Ashlanders have talked to me about their concern of piping the Ashland Canal.

We’ve read the staff reports and heard the council on the matter, but nowhere do we see anyone addressing “worst case scenarios” as the canal moves towards being piped.  We’d like to know whether the following concerns have been thoroughly investigated by staff as part of their study.

  1. Where is a detailed account of costs and plans for storm drain and potential debris flow mitigation that comes with piping?
  2. How do staff Justify the cost of piping a canal when the city is struggling to balance its budget in order to keep utility rates from continually rising?
  3. How can staff be certain that E coli doesn’t live in the new pipes when studies show that it does and will?
  4. What is the detailed maintenance plan for the canal because lack of maintenance is what got us here in the first place?
  5. What is the cost cap for this project?
  6. How can the cost of destroying at least one hundred trees and other eco-systems along the canal be justified for this project?  What is the guarantee that they can be replaced?
  7. What is the comparison of seismic risk between an open canal and a piped one – or what is the liquefaction susceptibility of the alternatives?

These are serious questions with consequences and cost/benefit budgetary concerns that must be addressed by the council and staff before a vote this evening. 

The staff opinion is that the opposition to the canal is simply a NIMBY problem, but the neighborhood of concerned citizens reaches from Oak Knoll to Ashland Mine Road as well as along the canal.  The entire length of our town has citizens who want a “no” vote on piping the canal.

When deliberating keep in mind these questions that have yet to be answered.  Also realize that the Atkins Engineering report clearly states that foundations for decks close to the canal are in jeopardy and would need support footing (21) and new retaining walls with drains are essential (36) and expensive.  This means citizen’s property will be disturbed significantly and here in lies the possibility of lawsuits.  This can’t be overlooked.

Do the right thing and get answers to these questions and concerns before going forward.

Dr. Carol Voisin, Ashland

Another statement:

I am here to represent the residents of Ashland in a NO vote for the piping of the Ashland Canal. I bring this stack of dozens of letters that people all over Ashland eagerly signed…I went door to door and also spoke to people on the streets and discovered NOBODY is in favor of piping the canal.

City Council Business Meeting, September 3,2019

The homeowners along the Ashland Canal are outraged around the proposed destruction to their properties.   We fail to comprehend why anyone would vote to destroy Ashland residents’ properties, by removing a beautiful and widely enjoyed water feature; by destroying irreplaceable ecosystems; and by killing a hundred plus old growth trees when a much less expensive, less invasive and equally effective option exists?

This is a very serious issue.  I want to make clear that if the piping is approved, there will be lawsuits filed. We know that the piping is unnecessary, because you do have better options than piping to accomplish your goals. 

If you vote to pipe the canal, we will be loud and vocal, and record every inch of the destruction of our properties, trees, and the negative effects on us and the environment.  We ask you to represent us – the people of Ashland that is your job!  Do the right thing and vote NO on piping the Ashland Canal.

Max Lowen, Ashland