Thursday, April 14, 2016

More Bad News for Fishing in the C&O Canal

After the post last week about repairs to the C&O Canal requiring a large portion to be drained, it looks like even more bad news awaits us. You may remember in the past the replica canal boat that used to go up and down the Georgetown section of the canal as a tourist attraction. It stopped operating several years ago, but as The Georgetown Current reports, the Georgetown Heritage nonprofit (local business improvement district arm) wants to begin operating it again. In order to do that, both Locks 3 and Locks 4 need repairs.

The National Park Service has funded the repairs to Lock 3, at a cost of $5.5 million dollars. It will require the canal to be drained completely east of Lock 5, which is just over the Maryland border. The NPS plans to begin work in October of this year with completion expected in April 2018. Additionally, repairs to Lock 4 have not yet been funded, so NPS has no timeline for when those will be complete. While the required repairs are less extensive, one can imagine these repairs may not happen at the same time and could extend the timeframe.

While having the canal drained for shorter periods of time over the winter isn't particularly new, having such a large portion drained for such a long period of time is new to me in the 9 years I've lived in the DC area. This comes as an even greater disappointment after what we saw last season. The 2014-2015 winter saw the canal remain filled the entire season. As a result, last summer we saw bass, bluegill, and carp populations flourish. Bigger and healthier fish were available, and the canal became an even greater source of recreation for the general DC area. This will be replaced by a dry canal bed and towpaths blocked for extended periods of time due to construction.

While understandably, a nearly 200 year old canal and lock system will require repairs, it's quite unfortunate we cannot figure out how to restore something that was built with 19th century technology in a more reasonable time frame than 18 months.

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