Long wait ahead for Columbia Canal repairs

Updated: Feb. 9, 2017 at 9:34 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - More than 16 months have passed since the catastrophic flooding that destroyed part of the Columbia Canal.

The canal's collapse cut off water to some 200,000 people in the capital city and left as much as $100 million in damage.

This week, however, engineering experts said repairs to the canal probably won't happen until the year 2019 at the earliest. The news may come as a surprise and a disappointment to some who might have been expecting to see the rebuilding work getting underway this year.

That means no changes for another two years or more in the large section of the canal between Gervais Street and the Jarvis Klapman Bridge where the damage is most dramatic.

Flooding broke out a big chunk of the canal wall near the State Museum and then another breach developed as work crews scrambled to build a temporary dam. There were also problems with the headgates that would need fixing as well.

One of the consultants working on the engineering plan to restore the canal says the big challenge is really more about funding and community organization than carrying out the actual repair work.

"I really don't see it as a difficult project in terms of complexity," Don Green, a project consultant with Michael Baker International explained. "What happens here is this has to do with what are we going to do versus available funds. What is in the best interests both from a short term and a long term. The hard part is the decision making by the stakeholders. Once everybody agrees as far as what we have to do, it's pretty straightforward."

Over the next few months, Green and others involved in the repair planning will formulate a set of alternatives that will be submitted to the city council and staff. Green said the process will move a lot faster if the community can settle on a common vision.

Keeping in mind there are also a lot of regulatory issues at the federal level including compliance with the National Environmental Protection Act that will also have to be settled.

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