PLAIN CITY — The long arm of a track hoe dredges up soupy mud from the bottom of a canal.
On the other side, a trio of neighbors walks along the edge of the canal bank, behind their properties, discussing the repairs.
The three are part of a group of residents worried that repairs to a Warren Irrigation District canal behind their homes is cutting into their property.
Some of the neighbors are going so far as hiring a lawyer to file an injunction against additional work.
“I am unhappy how they rebuilt the bank,” resident Janet Jones said. “I have definitely lost footage.”
The repairs began after runoff from the Sewer Improvement District rushed through the normally sedate canal, which runs parallel to 1400 North and 4200 South off of Pioneer Road in Plain City, and damaged the canal banks about 2 a.m. Oct. 1.
“It was a pretty good-sized blowout. You could drive a semi through it,” said Craig Jackson, spokesman for the Warren Irrigation District.
Large rodents, either muskrats or beavers, living in bushes along the bank caused the break, Jackson said. The irrigation district managed to fix the damage within 48 hours.
Since the break, crews from Randy Marriott Construction have been repairing the damaged area and clearing the canal of debris. The irrigation district has also taken the opportunity to knock down weeds, bushes and trees along the canal bank.
Jackson said crews expect to be done in the next few days.
But since the repairs began, only a narrow space separates Jones’ yard from the canal.
“If we ever have flooding,” Jones said, “I’m going to have flooding in my backyard.”
For many years, said resident Ken Andersen, the canal ran through a 40-foot easement at the rear of their properties, with the 20-foot-wide canal sitting between two 10-foot-wide access roads.
A fence separates most of the houses from the canal, but Andersen said most of the properties sit another 18 to 20 feet beyond the fence line.
Andersen keeps an antique Model A Ford in his space. And, like many of his neighbors, he has a vegetable garden.
Over the years, the canal has widened beyond its original 20 feet because of erosion, encroaching on the open space, Andersen said.
“The reason it happened is that they never maintained it right,” Andersen said.
To fight the erosion, residents have planted vegetation along the banks or put in slabs of concrete.
Now that repairs are under way, the neighbors worry that area behind their homes will be lost for good.
“They are taking land away from us when they cut the bank away on our side,” Andersen said. “I have one spot in my property where it cut 5 feet into my property.”
Warren Irrigation District denies taking property away from residents. Jackson said it is working on property that has belonged to the district since the early 1900s.
“They are in their bounds. They are working inside of their easement lines and doing some cleanup work inside of their bounds,” Jackson said.
“We completely disagree that we are encroaching on their property.”
Until the actual property lines get sorted out, the neighbors plan to hire an attorney to seek a cease-and-desist order to stop further work on the canal.
They hope to use that time to get the area properly surveyed to ensure they do not actually lose any property.
Andersen worries how long that will take.
“They are chewing away at our property while this slow process goes on.”