It was a standing room only crowd at the Jan. 31 CJCA meeting as more than fifty Cabin Johners showed up to learn about the current plans for repairs and improvements to the C&O Canal.
Park Superintendent Kevin Brandt reviewed an extensive plan for $10 million in canal improvements stretching from Violettes Lock to the District line. Although work is already underway, the complexity of the effort means water is not likely to flow in the Cabin John portion of the canal until the spring of 2021, provided additional state funding is secured next year.
Cabin John residents shared their concerns about the canal and the construction plans. Mac Thorton of Wishbone Terrace spoke for many paddlers when he lamented that the lack of water in the canal means Potomac paddlers can no longer loop back to their starting point. Brandt responded that the loop between Lock 5 and Fletcher’s Boat House should be restored this summer.
A number of attendees spoke to the environmental impacts of not having water in the canal and of the repairs. Brandt explained that the canal is now considered to be wetlands and that any work must go through an environmental assessment
and mitigate the loss of the wetlands.
Brandt credited community advocacy for helping the park secure state funds this year for canal repairs. He said citizens will need to express similar support – especially to county leaders who set priorities for state funding in their jurisdictions – to secure the additional funding needed to rewater the canal between Great Falls and Lock 5 at the DC Maryland line.
BY AMY ELSBREE
CJCA Board Member