Augusta Canal draining project now to begin Wednesday

Workers will begin draining the Augusta Canal early on Wednesday as part of an ongoing expansion of the city’s drinking water system.

“It’s going to be rather anticlimactic, actually,” said Drew Goins, the Utilities Department’s assistant director for drinking water. “You won’t see a swirl like your bathtub water going down the drain. This will be very slow and deliberate.”

The lowering will start with the lower portion of the canal, which runs from Lake Olmstead into downtown Augusta, he said. “We’ll lower that section down first, which will affect the area in front of all the mills,” he said. “Then, later in the week, we’ll start on the upper end.”

If all goes well, the lowering could be completed early next week.

The draining is needed to allow workers to cut through the bank of the canal on the Savannah River side near the city Pumping Station, where a pair of new 60-inch water lines will expand the amount of water piped to the city’s drinking water treatment plant on Central Avenue.

The city usually gets its drinking water from the canal. While the canal is drained, a pair of new diesel pumps will continue to supply the city with water that will instead be pumped directly from the Savannah River. Currently, those pumps are still being tested.

“Once that canal’s drained, we’re completely dependent on those diesels, so we’re still working through different operating methodologies,” he said. “We’ve been running them over the past week in different modes and they are performing well.”

Mr. Goins noted that the canal will not be completely “drained” in the literal sense. “There will still be water flowing through there from the tributary streams,” he said. Raes Creek, Rock Creek and Reed Creek in Columbia County all flow into the canal.

The Augusta Canal Authority, which operates a pair of Petersburg tour boats on the canal, pulled both vessels from the water last week in preparation for the draining, said marketing director Rebecca Rogers.

The construction work is expected to take about two months.

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