Work could begin this year on a project to restore the flow of water along five blocks of the Augusta Canal's stagnant third level.
"It will turn what has been an eyesore and liability into more of an amenity," said Dayton Sherrouse, the executive director of the Augusta Canal Authority, which today will award a contract for the $395,518 project.
Although the primary canal flows from its headgates to just past Enterprise Mill, the waterway's less-known third level meanders through a segment of downtown stretching from Greene Street to Laney-Walker Boulevard, and from Seventh to 12th streets.
"One of the plans, all along, has been to clean up and rewater that area," Sherrouse said.
During the 1990s, a $50 million project to clean up coal tar from a defunct gas factory was completed, and initial improvements included widening and deepening portions of the third level that were later lined with concrete.
"That began in 2001 and lasted several years," he said. "From 12th back down to Seventh, we adjusted the elevation to what it needed to be and they put the concrete liner in there to ease maintenance."
The next phase will include construction of an unusual weir behind Elliott Sons Funeral Home at 12th and Telfair streets that will back up water toward Seventh Street. The weir will include an adjustable bladder to control the flow and depth of water as flows fluctuate.
On the shallow end of the area to be rewatered, near Seventh and Eighth streets, average depths would increase from 6 inches or less to about 3 or 4 feet, while depths at the opposite end -- near 12th Street -- would increase from 3 feet to about 6 feet.
The additional water will improve the appearance of the third level and the quality of water. The rewatering is part of a long-range plan that could eventually include housing, parks with greenspace and other projects.
The low bidder on the weir project was Alpha Construction of Savannah. The company has completed other projects along the canal in the past, including the pedestrian bridge near the canal headgates.