"It's actually an amazing structure for being that old, but it does leak a little -- as all dams do," said Drew Goins, the city's assistant utilities director for water production.
Later this year, work will commence on a long-range plan to shore up thinning backslopes, correct seepages, remove trees and repair animal burrows and collapsing stream banks along the seven-mile waterway built in 1845.
The price tag -- estimated at $735,000 -- will include corrective action at four "seepage areas," where the canal backslope facing the Savannah River is leaking small amounts of water.
"When the canal was built, they had very little technology for compacting soils, so they overcame it with bulk," Mr. Goins said, noting that the canal banks were created with soil excavated from the channel. "That was the standard engineering practice at that time."
Last year, a detailed study of the canal was conducted on the city's behalf by Cranston Engineering Group, which identified the main areas that will need attention.
In addition to four seepage areas, inspectors found more than 250 penetrations along the canal caused by erosion and animal burrows, of which 34 were deemed "significant." None of the problems were deemed a threat to public safety.
The most intrusive repairs will involve stabilizing backslope areas above the Waterworks Pumping Station, where the original grade was narrower than most of the canal banks. Additional fill might be required and trees will be removed from that area.
Although the canal is popular with visitors to the National Heritage Area towpath, it remains a working industrial structure that provides most of Augusta's drinking water, in addition to hydropower for industry.
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- Pre-emptively remove dead trees, those leaning at angles greater than 45 degrees from the backslope of the canal levee banks.
- Design and implement permanent repairs to areas where seepage has occurred, including bank stability construction and removal of trees in construction areas.
- Monitor undercuts in the canal channel until the next scheduled drainage, then make detailed observations and initiate repair plans.
- Stockpile 4,000 cubic yards of clay and soil in the canal vicinity in case it is needed for emergency repairs or stabilization.
- Arrange a permanent, ongoing inspection program with more frequent visits to areas known to have problems with trees, slope stability, animal burrows and seepage.
- Consider increasing emergency spillway capacity by completing an unfinished spillway begun in the 1920s.
Source: Augusta Utilities Department