One of the Augusta Canal’s most overlooked segments is flowing again — with some help from an innovative dam with an inflatable bladder.
The canal’s Third Level, which runs from mid-block of Seventh Street and past the new Augusta Judicial Center to Twelfth Street, took about 12 hours to fill after flows were restored Friday, officials said.
The Canal Authority intends to maintain water in the third level from now on.
The rewatering is possible because of the installation last year of a specially designed automated bladder dam at the junction of the canal’s second and third levels behind Elliott’s Funeral Home.
The dam, which can be inflated or deflated as conditions warrant, will maintain a full pool of fresh water flowing through the third level at all times.
The canal’s third level was the site of a coal gas plant during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The manufacturing processes caused significant contamination of the nearby soil, which was removed during a lengthy project that resulted in the canal channel being lined with concrete.
After the cleanup project was completed, there was no way to maintain a full pool of water in the third level. Engineers came up with the bladder dam solution, which pools enough water into the channel from water coming from the second level of the canal to ensure adequate flows to not only maintain the pool at the desired level but to keep it from becoming stagnant.
The Augusta Canal Authority began the dam project in 2010, at a cost of $397,454, funded by SPLOST. The Authority also is currently designing a multi-use trail along the third level which will include a walking trail, benches and interpretive signs explaining Atlanta Gas Light’s role in the third level clean-up and other significant historic sites and events.