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C&O Canal restoration launched in Georgetown

C&O Canal restoration launched in Georgetown. (ABC7)

The National Park Service has kicked off the multi-year restoration of the C&O Canal in Georgetown.

In the short-term, the construction will limit some public access. But long-term, planners are predicting a transformation along the canal.

At the event Wednesday morning, residents and tourists applauded as The Georgetown canal boat was towed out one last time by two mules.

Showing its age, the old barge had become water-logged, sitting dormant next to the canal since 2011.

But the National Park Service, the D.C. government and Georgetown business leaders have partnered to replace it with a new boat, another 19th century replica.

First, they must restore the canal with a history going back to George Washington.

“This is a national treasure that needs some investment. It needs some TLC,” said Mayor Muriel Bowser.

This is about more than bringing back boat tours. The canal system offers Georgetown flood protection. And if not fixed, structural failure is a real possibility.

C&O Canal Superintendent Kevin Brandt said the walls around lock three are buckling in.

“Lock 3 is going to be disassembled stone by stone and reconstructed from the foundation up,” he said.

Nearby, lock four also needs repairs.

“You see a lot of water pouring through it,” Brandt said. “That's not the way the lock gates were intended.”

During construction the canal will be dry from Georgetown all the way up to lock five, just beyond the border with Maryland.

The park service is also planning to improve the toe path surface and add better lighting.

Georgetown BID CEO & President Joe Sternlieb said, “We're going to see more businesses opening adjacent near the canal because I think we're going to see more pedestrian traffic.”

The $10 million dollar restoration of the canal is expected to take 18 months to complete, with a new canal boat anticipated in 2018.

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