Poorly maintained canal floods homes again

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(3TV/CBS 5) -

It has happened again. A group of homes in the area of 24th Street and Thomas Road were flooded during last week monsoon storm. Homeowners in the area, like Christopher Smith, are frustrated.

This is the third time in four years the same type of flooding has occurred. Smith and others believe a poorly-maintained drainage ditch that parallels Salt River Project’s Grand Canal behind the home is to blame.

“They have to keep this clean to keep the debris from getting in front of it and blocking it making it virtually useless. That’s all they have to do is dig this out and keep it clean,” said Smith.

During last week’s rain, when the water started to accumulate, Smith and several neighbors grabbed pitchforks and shovels and pulled large amounts of debris from the grate of the drainage canal that is in front of the pipe. All that debris builds up and keeps the water from going through the pipe.

“You get really nervous and you take precautions that you shouldn’t have to every time you see a rain cloud."

During last year, which occurred almost a year ago to the day of this year’s storm, six inches of water filled Smith’s home and nearly all of Foote Drive between 24th Place and 26th Street was underwater.

At least three other homes on his block also sustained severe flooding.

Last week, many residents already had sandbags on hand, one resident even built two block walls to try to steer the water away from her front and back doors. Being prepared, couple with Smith and others physically removing debris from the canal during the storm, mitigated the damage. Smith’s front and back yards were flooded, but only about an inch of water got into parts of his home. 

The solution seems simple. Did the drainage ditch deeper and maintain it so debris does not build up. The difficulty lies in the fact that no one is claiming responsibility for the ditch.

A spokeswoman for The City of Phoenix said the land is owned by the federal government but the area citizens are complaining about “is within SRP’s maintenance responsibility.”

But a spokesman for Salt River Project told us that the area falls within the City of Phoenix’s Grand Canalscape Project and so it’s the city’s responsibility. But he also said he would be checking with a supervisor and another employee who were out of the office Monday, to find out more details.

Meanwhile, the Bureau of Land Management said their records show the property is privately owned, and was transferred out of federal jurisdiction in 1894.

Smith and others have been making calls for more than year and have also been given conflicting answers.

“I contacted the City of Phoenix first. They said it’s not their property, they can’t touch this area because it’s SRP’s property. So, I contacted numerous people at SRP and they gave me conflicting stories,” said Smith.

He said one of the people he spoke with at SRP told him that it is federal property but that SRP has been given the task to maintain it and be the custodians over the canal systems.

Smith did say that earlier this spring, in an attempt to help, SRP did clean out about 200 feet of the cement pipe which goes under 24th Street, but it did not seem to make much of a difference.

The neighbors are frustrated and just want someone to take responsibility.

“Not only just the damage to your home. Not the money. But just being afraid to even leave your house if you see a rain cloud. It’s beyond frustrating,” said Smith.

We will continue to try to find answers about the drainage ditch and whose responsible for its maintenance.

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Copyright 2017 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


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