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SALT LAKE CITY, Utah - Lt. Governor Gary R. Herbert has directed Utah's Executive Water Task Force to study and make recommendations for the proper oversight of the state's 5,300 miles of canals.

The directive comes after last week's deadly incident in Northern Utah, which resulted in the death of Jacqueline Leavey and her two children, Abbey and Victor Alanis.

"The tragic case in Logan highlights a need to take a comprehensive look at the state's canal system, which serves a crucial role for many Utahns," Lt. Governor Herbert said. "It is important to craft sound public policy to protect the safety of our citizens while also protecting the state's water supply."

Specifically, the Lieutenant Governor has instructed the group to answer three questions:

  • Where does the responsibility lie for overall oversight and regulation?
  • What is the most appropriate method to achieve oversight?
  • Who should take the lead to identify high-hazard canals?

"It is easy to overlook the importance of these canal systems to our communities until they are brought to our attention by an incident such as this," Lt. Governor Herbert said. "We cannot survive without these canals, but we must do all we can to assure safety. The Task Force expertise will be a great help."

Members of the Executive Water Task Force include engineers, legal experts, state lawmakers, canal owners, and representatives from the Utah Farm Bureau and various water conservancy districts. The group meets every three weeks to discuss state water policy, and will address the Lieutenant Governor's directives at its Aug. 4 meeting.

"We welcome and support Lt. Governor Herbert's initiative," said Michael Styler, executive director of the Utah Department of Natural Resources and chairman of the Executive Water Task Force. "We are certainly concerned about the status and condition of Utah's canals, and agree that it is time to examine, in a public forum, how we can protect the public and be fair to water users."

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