Reid's Bill Designed To Make Aging Western Canals Safer

RENO, Nev. (AP) - Sen. Harry Reid has introduced a bill designed to make aging federal-owned canals and levees safer across the West.

The Nevada Democrat's measure was introduced Thursday, about
three months after the failure of an earthen embankment on a century-old irrigation canal flooded the growing town of Fernley, 30 miles east of Reno.

The Jan. 5 breach of the Truckee Canal flooded nearly 600 homes,
making Fernley a state and federal disaster area.

The bill would provide $11 million over the next five years for required inspections of federal water infrastructure such as the Truckee Canal.

It also directs the Department of Interior to perform maintenance and repairs to ensure the safety of nearby homes and businesses.

"I will work diligently to pass this bill to protect Nevadans living near canals and levees," Reid said.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation owns 7,911 miles of canals in 17
Western states, the vast majority of them managed and operated by
local irrigation and water districts.

Among the bureau's holdings is the 32-mile-long Truckee Canal, which takes water from the Truckee River south to farms and ranches around Fallon. The Truckee-Carson Irrigation District maintains and operates the canal under a lease with the bureau.

Engineers who investigated the Fernley flood concluded the main
reason of the failure was the embankment had been riddled with
rodent burrows, some up to 25 feet deep.

They also found a lack of maintenance allowed the growth of
numerous large trees whose root systems can weaken an embankment.

The legislation is being co-sponsored by Democratic Sens. Jeff
Bingaman of New Mexico, Ken Salazar of Colorado and Jon Tester of

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

AP-NY-04-12-08 1905EDT