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4,000 Tri-Citians without water after canal break

A massive collapse on the Columbia Irrigation District's main canal about two miles west of Leslie Road on Columbia Park Trail on Wednesday left more than 4,000 people without water, including some in the Kennewick Irrigation District.

CID officials gathered at the site at 8 a.m. to examine an 80-foot gap in the canal and a washout larger than a house with an attached garage as the last of the irrigation water dribbled out down a washout carved downhill through brush to the Yakima River.

The break occurred just west of Hills West Estates near Rockwood Street and north of Columbia Park Trail.

Russ Pelleberg, CID assistant manager, said repair crews from Ray Poland and Sons in Kennewick will work day and night until the breach is repaired and water flow restored.

About half of the district's customers, who are in Kennewick and Finley, can expect no irrigation water for about a week, he said.

CID customers in West Richland are not affected because the break occurred downstream from where their water is diverted from the main canal.

The outage also leaves about 950 customers in the KID without water, said Kassie Rothfork, KID spokeswoman.

KID uses CID water to provide pressurized water to four neighborhoods -- Lampson Homesites, Tri-City Heights No. 1, Garber's Addition and the Olmstead area, which includes a private line.

Pelleberg said the canal failed sometime around 5:45 a.m., washing out a large section and carving a channel about 100 yards to the Yakima River. He said the Army Corps of Engineers, the state Department of Ecology and the Department of Fish and Wildlife were notified. There were no residences damaged.

"There was no indication of trouble with the canal at that location," he said.

The failure happened at a junction of the lined canal and a portion that was unlined. "It was in an earthened area," Pelleberg said.

CID has an emergency fund to cover such breaks, Pelleberg said.

Pam and Scott Woodward, whose home on Columbia Park Trail overlooks and is within about 150 feet of the break, were awakened by the sound of the collapse.

"My husband said it sounded like a jet going over, but it wouldn't stop," Pam said. "We wanted a nice water feature, but not this," she said.

"They've got quite an organized construction crew, with lights and even a bathroom," she said. "They told us where it broke was the weakest spot."

-- John Trumbo: 582-1529;