Dismal Swamp Canal to reopen Tuesday

Duckweed 10.27.17.jpg

Duckweed is seen on the surface of the Dismal Swamp Canal at the Dismal Swamp Canal Welcome Center. Donna Stewart, director of the welcome center, says she has never seen "the canal this thick with duckweed." The canal is set to reopen to vessel traffic on Tuesday at 8:30 a.m.


From staff reports

Sunday, October 29, 2017

SOUTH MILLS — The Dismal Swamp Canal will reopen to boaters traveling the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway on Tuesday under what the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says will be “restricted” conditions.

The Corps closed the waterway last October following extensive damage caused by Hurricane Matthew’s passage through the region. The canal was originally set to reopen in September, but that date was pushed back a month to allow more time to dredge and to remove downed trees and other debris from the canal. 

According the Corps’ Norfolk District, the canal will reopen to vessel traffic starting at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, but vessels will have to pass one at a time in some areas where the channel is still narrow.

The locks at Deep Creek, in Virginia, and in South Mills will operate at 8:30 a.m., 11 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. daily. The adjacent drawbridges will operate as normal and on the same schedule as the lock openings. 

Vessels may moor overnight in the canal. Use radio channel 13 to monitor bridges and locks traffic.  

The Dismal Swamp Canal has a controlling depth of 6 feet at center and 50 feet wide, except at the Big Entry Ditch and the Feeder Ditch, where the width narrows to approximately 25 feet wide. These shoaled areas are marked with green and red stakes, and only one vessel at a time can pass in these two areas.

South of the South Mills lock, Turners Cut Channel has a controlling depth of 5.9 feet at center and 80 feet wide, and a shoal south of Joyce Creek has been marked with green and red stakes. The stakes show where the canal narrows to approximately 40 feet wide. Here, only one vessel can pass at a time.

The Corps also warns that duckweed is heavy on the canal at this time and boaters should clean their strainers as necessary. 

Donna Stewart, director of the Dismal Swamp Canal Welcome Center in South Mills, said she’s never seen the canal as thick with duckweed, noting the weed has been an issue for boaters in the past. 

“This has been a chal­leng­ing year for the Dis­mal Swamp Canal,” Ste­wart said in an email, re­fer­ring to the canal’s clo­sure for all of 2017 thus far. “But we look for­ward to bet­ter days ahead.”

The biggest problems caused by Hurricane Mathew, which passed over the region Oct. 8-9 last year, 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. 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.

To learn more about the latest canal surveys visit http://www.nao.usace.army.mil/HydroSurveys/. Boaters planning to use the canal are advised to refer to the Coast Guard Local Notice to Mariners, contact the lock operator, or to call the Norfolk District office at 757-201-7642.