NORFOLK, Va. – The Dismal Swamp Canal is scheduled to reopen to vessel traffic by the end of September, with the Lake Drummond Reservation and Feeder Ditch opening to canoes and kayaks on August 18, officials said.
Crews continue to dredge the canal, which officials at the Norfolk District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers closed due to extensive damage from Hurricane Matthew in October.
“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.
Engineers completed a survey of the Dismal Swamp Canal in March after crews had finished clearing more than 350 trees from the canal.
That survey, along with another survey in July, revealed controlling depths less than the normal 6 feet: engineers plotted the Deep Creek Channel at 4.8 feet, Tuners Cut was less than 2.5 feet and the Feeder Ditch was shoaled in at a depth of approximately 1 foot.
The crew of Wilmington District’s Dredge Murden completed dredging in the Deep Creek Channel on June 21. After-dredge surveys showed a controlling depth of 6 feet, which allowed officials to reopen the channel to navigation. The Dredge Murden will return at the end of August to complete clean-up adjacent to the Deep Creek Lock.
Feeder Ditch dredging resumes today. The crane crew will dredge 1,500 cubic yards of material to reopen the Feeder Ditch to a depth of 6 feet, 25 feet wide by then end of August.
When crews complete work at the Feeder Ditch, they will return to Turners Cut to complete work that was suspended after the quality of dredged material at Turners Cut did not meet the standards for beneficial reuse. Officials coordinated with the state of North Carolina while a new dredging method was arranged that met state water quality standards.
Engineers are also working on a design for emergency generators for the Deep Creek and South Mills Locks, which were inoperable after the hurricane.
Deep Creek Lock Gate rehabilitation work, which was scheduled before Hurricane Matthew struck, is complete: the gates were reinstalled on July 19 and operating the next day.
When the post-hurricane dredging operations began in the canal, officials aimed to reopen the waterway before October, when perennial “snowbirds” use the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway to travel south, bound for the Bahamas and Florida ports of call.
“Since the hurricane, our goal has been to reopen the canal to navigation as soon as possible,” Scussel said.