A former temporary employee working for the city of Albany has raised questions about work done to restore the Santiam Canal, and the official responsible for the project has provided answers.
Tony Lewis, 45, worked for the city between July 2006 and May 2008 and made his points a talk with the Democrat-Herald. He was hired to clear debris from the 18-mile-long canal, which starts at the South Santiam River above Lebanon and ends in Albany.
The canal needed cleaning for two reasons, said Jim Young, the city's water supervisor: It had not been done in a long time and water velocity needed to be increased for when the power plant begins operation at the Vine Street Water Treatment Plant this fall.
Lewis wondered why consultants were hired and city engineers not used to assess the state of the canal banks, and why the assessment was undertaken when the vegetation was at its heaviest and a thorough analysis could not be done.
Young's response is that the city felt it was better to have engineers with strong geo-technical backgrounds provide advice on canal bank restoration, and the city doesn't have such people on staff. An initial survey was done during high vegetation for two reasons: to determine what brush and stumps needed to be removed and to allow cleanup to start immediately and not be postponed for a year until the banks were cleared.
The consultants have returned since Lewis left the job and verified their preliminary survey work.
Lewis said those hired to clear the banks were told at first to do a thorough job and then, as property owners complained about the loss of trees and vegetation, the city backed off on how much foliage and trees to remove. If workers had been allowed to do their job correctly, he claims, the canal would not need another cleaning for several years, saving the city money.
Young explains that workers were hired to clear debris from the flow channel, which in some instances required clearing the top of the banks for access. At times, crews got overzealous and denuded some banks unnecessarily.
The city wanted to keep trees where possible to shade the water to lower temperatures, which makes for better water quality. Brush along the banks was preserved to keep livestock out of the water and to prevent accidental field overspray. Some landowners along the canal complained about loss of vegetation, and the city tried to meet both the city's and landowners' needs.
Young said that anyone with concerns about activities on the canal can contact him at 917-7609.