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Canal reopening pushed back a month

080917dismalcanal

A dredge vessel from the Wilmington District of the U.S. Corps of Engineers works to dredge the Dismal Swamp Canal earlier this spring. The Corps announced this week the canal will reopen to boat traffic by the end of September. The waterway has been closed since it was damaged by Hurricane Matthew last October.

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From staff reports

Saturday, September 16, 2017

SOUTH MILLS — Citing weather and the need for additional dredging, the U.S. Corps of Engineers will not be able to reopen the Dismal Swamp Canal to boaters at the end of this month as planned.

The Corps originally planned to reopen the canal on Sept. 30, but that date has now been moved back to late October, according to a news release from the Corps’ Norfolk District office. 

"Recent weather events have delayed progress, and the latest condition survey of Turners Cut showed that additional dredging was needed," said Keith Lockwood, district Operations Branch chief.

The canal was closed following extensive damage from Hurricane Matthew. It sustained unprecedented damage in the Oct. 8-9 storm. The Corps announced in August that the canal would reopen by the end of September.

The biggest problems caused by the storm were downed trees in the canal and shoaling. Surveys of the canal completed by Corps engineers in both March and July — after 350 trees were cleared — showed controlling depths of less than the normal 6 feet, the Corps said in August. The Deep Creek Channel, for example, was plotted at 4.8 feet. Turners Cut was less than 2.5 feet and the Feeder Ditch had shoaled in to a depth of about 1 foot.

"In the history of the canal, we've never had this issue, and we're using every available resource to make the canal safe again for vessels," said Joel Scussel, Norfolk District Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway project manager.

Donna Stewart, director of the Dismal Swamp Canal Welcome Center, said in an email that the Corps’ decision to delay the canal’s reopening was disappointing but understandable.

“Of course, we are disappointed and realize there are many needs in many areas right now and our thoughts are with them,” she said referring to the Corps. “We look forward to seeing our boaters when the canal can reopen.

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