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Repairs on towpath to begin

June 27, 1997

By SAMANTHA KRULEWITZ

Staff Writer

SHARPSBURG - The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park released a plan this week to begin repairing the $55 million in damage done to various areas of the historic canal by the January and September 1996 floods.

Gordon V. Gay, chief of interpretation and visitor services for the park, said local areas affected the most by the floods were the Dam No. 4 trail area and the Shenandoah River area near Harpers Ferry, W.Va..

"There are areas that get hit harder than others (by floods), and that's one of them because of the Shenandoah River," Gay said. "We need to do something with sustainability - try to lessen the impact from future floods."

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Gay said floods have always been a problem for the 184.5-mile canal that stretches from Georgetown to Cumberland because it was built in a flood plain. The canal runs parallel to the Potomac River and in some areas is just 12 feet away from the river.

Gay said that there was damage to the Dam No. 4 trail area before the floods, and last year's floods only made the damage worse. According to the Flood Recovery Plan, the Dam No. 4 historic towpath, about 1.5 miles of nature trail, will cost $112,000 to fix.

The park, which attracts between 2 to 4 million visitors a year, has collected almost $23 million in funds and in-kind donations for flood recovery needs through appropriations from Congress, donations, grants and donated services, Gay said.

Two years ago the park put water back (rewatered) into sections of the canal near Williamsport and Hancock and have plans to rewater near Cumberland in the future, he said. The majority of the canal doesn't have water because it would cost millions to fix, Gay said.

Park officials plan to prioritize the areas that will be fixed because of lack of funds. Those that were hit hardest by the floods will be fixed first.

"We have to set priorities for things that need to be fixed the most and then ask for more money," Gay said. "We have received $2 million in donations since the floods. It was really amazing, and it will help."

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