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New path to be built around portion of C&O Canal

February 25, 1999

A new path will be built around a portion of the C&O Canal that was damaged by flooding in 1996.

The 185-mile Chesapeake & Ohio Canal and trail suffered $65 million in damage in January and September 1996 floods, according to C&O Canal National Historical Park Superintendent Doug Faris.

The flooding caused serious damage and erosion to a 7,500-foot section of the towpath. A new towpath detour path was built so bikers and hikers could continue to use the trail.

That path took people onto narrow Washington County roads and the county asked that a new path be built, Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said.

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Faris told the County Commissioners about the new path during a Tuesday night meeting in Hancock.

It would cost about $10 million to $12 million to fix the gap in the towpath, which is downstream of Williamsport, he said. While that might eventually be done, it would take several years to get funding for the work, Faris said.

Instead, a path will be built at a cost of about $200,000 to $300,000, he said. Construction should begin this summer and could be completed as early as November, he said.

C&O received $23.5 million from the federal government to pay for flood repairs but only $2.5 million is left, Faris said. Since there is a flood along the Potomac River about every 13 years, parts of the canal are being upgraded as repairs are made, he said.

The construction costs for a new path will be paid with the remaining flood repairs funds, he said.

The canal, which runs from Cumberland, Md., to Georgetown was proclaimed a national park in 1971. It operated from 1831 to 1924 as a commercial shipping channel, using mule-drawn barges to move freight between the mouth of the Potomac and points west.

- Scott Butki

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