SRP, homeowners fight over land bordering Phoenix canals

Posted at 10:18 PM, Jun 19, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-20 10:18:42-04

A property fight in Phoenix has homeowners and the Salt River Project reviewing deeds and records more than a century old. 

David Boyle, who lives off the Grand Canal near 32nd Street and McDowell Road, said he would lose "close to half" of the property his family's lived on and maintained for more than 40 years.

But how and why?

According to SRP, fences, landscaping, and other items encroaching on land owned by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and are under their control. 

"Private use of [federal government] property is not an approved use," said Jim Duncan, SRP's Principal Analyst for Water Engineering. 

"What makes this unusual is that in addition to the Grand Canal, which is the canal that's out there today, there was, in the early 1900s, another canal that paralleled [the Grand Canal] called the Appropriator's Canal," Duncan said, adding the land where the latter canal once was is also U.S. property. 

Duncan said the encroachment by people in that area went unnoticed for decades because it wasn't affecting workers' abilities to maintain the Grand Canal. He and other SRP officials said a more recent analysis of the area while reviewing plans for the Grand Canalscape Project further highlighted the issues. In some cases, he believes homeowners didn't realize the land they thought was theirs wasn't. 

"People purchased a home believing that what they saw on the ground was what their title described, yet those two things were very different," Duncan said. 

Still, Boyle has his suspicions. He provided ABC15 with documents showing his parcel number was mysteriously changed in 2011 and, more recently, the legal description of his property on tax records was modified from three lines to ten. That change, he said, was the first time there was any mention of the Appropriator's Canal.

Boyle said for close to ten years before his parcel number was changed, he was paying taxes on the land now in dispute. 

"What does that do to my value?" Boyle asked. "The value of my property was just basically cut in half." 

Officials said construction on the land in question is on track to begin next month. 

Duncan said SRP and the City of Phoenix are working with property owners to mitigate the effects of the project by adding driveways and fences where appropriate. 

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