Cumberland Times-News

December 18, 2013

Canal Place basin water level drops due to leak

Matthew Bieniek
Cumberland Times-News

— CUMBERLAND — During recent meetings of the Canal Place Preservation & Development Authority, officials with the National Park Service disclosed that the Canal Basin, the water filled attraction at Canal Place, is leaking.

The Canal Basin, which is under the jurisdiction of the park service, was constructed during prosperous economic times as a first step in a larger project to rewater the canal as a major tourist draw. After the economic recession took hold in 2008, plans to rewater the canal were shelved.

Brad Clawson, chief ranger with the park service, who gives regularly scheduled park service updates during Canal Place’s monthly meetings, talked about the Canal Basin leak.

“There is a problem there. We have looked at the basin and where the leak is and where we are losing water,” said Clawson.

Clawson, during a Times-News interview after the meeting, said a repair would most likely be costly and may require drastic options.

“We are looking at every avenue. We are also considering filling it in with dirt,” said Clawson.

The National Park Service, as with many branches of the government, is facing tight budgetary restrictions during the current economic downturn.

Clawson said that water seems to be flowing from the basin back into Wills Creek.

“They think it’s where the pipes come in from Wills Creek that actually feeds the basin,” said Dee Dee Ritchie, executive director of the CPPDA.

In addition to the leak, problems for the Canal Basin have been compounded by the mechanical failure of one of the basin’s pumps. Two large pumps were installed at the basin to be used to handle the massive canal rewatering project.

“They are huge pumps. We are paying the electric for the pumps,” said Clawson.

A visit to the Canal Basin showed the water level very low. Some officials thought it might be a seasonable lowering, but Ritchie felt it was most likely due to the leak. At any rate, the future of keeping the basin filled with water is going to be a challenge.

“To maintain the water level at where we want it to be is going to be difficult,” said Clawson.

Officials realize that the Canal Basin provides a nice focal point for the tourism center.

“We don’t want the attraction to become an impediment to people coming to Canal Place,” said Clawson.

Ritchie said many visitors have been unhappy with the basin.

“I get complaints about it constantly,” said Ritchie.

The basin has also had problems with algae and other vegetation growing in it as well as trash, bottles and other debris being thrown into the water.

“I’d like to see it be aesthetically pleasing. If they can’t make it nice looking; they need to fill it in,” said Ritchie.

Some have complained about a stench, particularly in summer, coming from stagnant water conditions. Canal Place officials hope the water circulation issue can be fixed as well.

The volume and rate of water loss has not yet been established by park officials.

“We are looking at options. It’s supposed to be an attraction,” said Clawson.

Greg Larry can be contacted at glarry@times-news.com.