Members of the West Montgomery County Citizens Association got a verbal tour along the C&O Canal from Kevin Brandt, superintendent of the C&O National Historical Park, Wednesday.
Speaking at the WMCCA meeting Dec. 14, Brandt updated the group on work along the canal starting at mile marker zero in Georgetown and continuing upriver.
“There is a ton of stuff going on starting in Georgetown and moving upstream,” Brandt said. “About two years ago we started getting calls for the Georgetown Business Improvement District about the canal boat just sitting there.”
Conversations between the business district and Brandt’s office sharing ideas about improving the look and usage of the canal have been ongoing. Georgetown residents even formed a nonprofit group, Georgetown Heritage, to work with the park seeking grants for the improvements both felt necessary.
To get water back into the lower part of the canal, Locks 3 and 4 will be reconstructed.
Unfortunately, Brandt said, when beginning the reconstruction of Lock 3 a contaminant was found in the soil and that needs to be removed. So, the lock is being taken apart stone by stone in order to get to the contaminated soil and mitigate the problem. It will then be reconstructed.
Often, he noted, one thing leads to another along the canal, but funding is in place and the two locks are expected to be finished in the early summer of 2018.
“It’s exciting to think about doing programs down there,” Brandt said.
As Brandt’s report got closer to the sections of the canal and towpath the WMCCA members use most often, he got more questions from those at the meeting.
Brandt told about the Locks 5 Through 22 Project that he expected to be funded this year but which has been held up because, rather than pass a new budget, Congress continues to fund existing programs through Continuing Resolution. That means, Brandt said, the project which includes a number of improvements along the canal in Montgomery County is on hold.
Lock 5 is just above Little Falls, below Glen Echo Park. Lock 22 is Pennyfield Lock, off River Road. The distance between the two is roughly 15 miles.
“We would like to have flowing water along this stretch,” Brandt said, “The alluvial fans are so significant we can’t get water [to flow].”
The discussion of silt in the water prompted Glen Hills resident Ken Bower to ask about the plan Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission proposed to move its mid-river water intake farther into the Potomac.
“Our objection is they [WSSC] keep asking to go farther and deeper,” Carol Van Dam Falk, WMCCA president, said. “But that does not address the problem.”
They need to be reforested in order to reduce erosion.
Brandt said the problem is the streams leading into the river above the current intake valve.
“In all our discussions of [the midriver intake] we’ve constantly pushed [WSSC] to fix the silt problem from Watts Branch,” Brandt said, “but we have no authority.”
Brandt said the midriver channel intake is still in the review process. He said the National Park Service looks at specific impacts the project will have on the canal and makes recommendations.
“There are some significant impacts of the plan,” he said.
Other concerns expressed by those in attendance at the meeting were the proposed catering facility which will be built behind Anglers Inn, the deer population along the canal, traffic and parking along MacArthur Blvd. near Angler’s Inn and the loss of trees caused by the Emerald Ash Borer.
Being 184.5 miles long, The C&O National Historical Park gives Brandt and the communities it serves a lot of concerns, but also provides pleasure to approximately 3,150,000 people annually according the National Park Service website.