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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Donna RossiEmmy Award-winning reporter Donna Rossi joined CBS 5 News in September 1994.

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Donna Rossi

In that time, Donna has covered some of the most high-profile stories in the Valley and across the state. Donna's experience as a four-year veteran of the Phoenix Police Department gives her a keen sense of crime and court stories. She offered gavel to gavel coverage of the 1999 sleepwalking murder trial of Scott Falater, and the trial and conviction of retired Catholic Bishop Thomas O'Brien for a fatal hit and run accident. She also spent 2 straight weeks in northeastern Arizona in the summer of 2011 covering the Wallow Fire, the largest wildfire in Arizona history.

Donna's reputation as a fair and accurate journalist has earned her the respect of her colleagues and community. Her talent as a reporter has earned her more than a dozen Arizona Associated Press Awards and five Emmy statue.

Donna previously worked as an anchor and reporter in Tucson and got her start in broadcast journalism in Flagstaff. Donna is a past president of the Rocky Mountain Southwest Chapter of the National Academy of Arts and Sciences and currently serves on the NATAS board. She is a member of IFP/Phoenix, a non-profit organization of local film and documentary makers.

Donna was born in New York and moved to the Valley with her family when she was 9 years old. She is a graduate of Maryvale High School and attended Arizona State University. She graduated cum laude from Northern Arizona University.

In her free time, Donna enjoys boating on Bartlett Lake, all forms of music and theatre. Donna frequently donates her time to speak to community organizations and emcee their events. She is a past board member of DUET, a non-profit which helps promote health and well-being for older adults. Donna also loves donating her time to youth organizations and groups who work to secure and safeguard human rights.

On Oct. 17, 2015, Donna was honored for her amazing work over the years. The Rocky Mountain Chapter of the National Academy of Televisions Arts and Sciences inducted her into its Silver Circle. It's one of the organization's most prestigious honors for which only a few candidates are selected each year.

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