Cumberland Times-News

Opinion

June 22, 2013

Float it, and they will come

I want to commend Gary Clites of Carpendale, W.Va., for his excellent readers commentary on June 16, titled “Develop the waterway.”

Mr. Clites’ letter was so well thought out and historically accurate that I am asking Nick Scarpelli, the Allegany County Chamber of Commerce and Bill Atkinson of the State Planning Office to rethink what this gentleman is saying.

Mr. Clites’ claim that from 1840 until 1930 the 3.1-mile section of the Potomac River was a boating mecca is historically correct, for I have many old postcards that depict such activity.

Furthermore, the solution of canoe boats that want to travel past the existing dam is a bypass portage system that is currently used on hundreds of dams in this country.

For many years, the Allegany County Preservation Society not only fought against many aspects of urban renewal, we fought to save the Queen City Station and the Bell Tower Building that currently houses the Allegany County Chamber, but we have also tried to get the canal rewatered from the terminus down to Candock and get the ballfield site at the terminus cleared for park development.

We always felt that a rewatered canal would promote canal boat tour rides and really make Canal Place a destination stop for tourist.

When the economic downturn happened in 2008, I personally gave up on the idea of rewatering because Andy Vick could not see any way to fund such a project.

While, I would still like to see the canal rewatering occur in my lifetime, Mr. Clites’ insight has inspired me to write this letter before it is too late.

What if the Canal Place area would now include this 3.1-mile stretch of the Potomac River basin with the dam left intact and using this section for canal boat or paddle boat rides?

Can you image the attraction from the bridge of Interstate 68 looking down on a riverboat with a big paddlewheel? Surely, that sight by itself would draw people off the Interstate to Canal Place!

In addition, since I was successful in helping promote to Frostburg Mayor and Council Mike Griffith’s idea for a hydroelectric station coming down off Big Savage, I feel the same concept could be adopted in Cumberland using the dam.

All we would have to do is put four to six slots in the top of the dam and insert pipes that would be hooked to turbines at the base of the dam. This would give the city or county a source of electrical power most of the year, if not all of the year.

Lastly, I am not an engineer, but I watched the water come down Will Creek during the last major flood.

Standing next to the concrete wall at the train station and watching the water flow through flood control system I realized that the dam on the Potomac River was playing a part, too, in holding back the current flow of the Potomac River just enough to allow that massive amount of water from Wills Creek to exit safely without causing a backing up effect that may or may not occur with the dam being removed.

The old adage, “If it is not broken don’t fix it” should apply to this debate. I hope that leadership involved making this decision will listen to the good counsel of Gary Clites.

Once the dam is gone it will be gone just like the Queen City Station. I hope that both sides of this debate can have their voices heard before it is too late.

Bernard W. Miltenberger

Frostburg

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