Chemical liner being applied to dry canal bed
It's been a dry summer for the most part ... which ironically is just what the engineer ordered for Ottawa's ongoing project to rewater a half-mile stretch of the historic Illinois and Michigan Canal.
Crews on Monday began treating the canal bed with a chemical liner designed to hold water, a critical step in rewatering the historic parcel which was active from the 1840s through the early 1900s. Ottawa's stretch of the I and M Canal was dewatered in 1933.
"Today they’re putting in a chemical liner in order to keep the water from leaking into the earth or potentially into people’s basements," Ottawa Mayor Dan Aussem told The Times on Monday. "That's what they're working on now."
The rewatering project has been ongoing since 2003. The Ottawa Canal Association was formed in 2008 to spearhead the project, and the city is now bringing it to completion.
Thomas Duttlinger of Etscheid, Duttlinger and Associates, Inc., said he believes the canal could be water-ready by the close of the week. The next step would be to add approximately six inches of water to protect the liner from drying out and cracking until the canal can be filled fully with H2O pumped from the Fox River.
"Once [the chemical liner installation] is done, we’ll have to put water on it to keep it from cracking," said Aussem. "We’ll have some fire hydrants [open] and put some water in it. Then [Tuesday] night we’ll be awarding the bid for the contractor to build the pump station."
The mayor believes pipe — which will carry water from the Fox River near Guion Street to the half-mile stretch of the I and M Canal, which will serve as a recreation area for the city — is scheduled to arrive next week, which would allow volunteers to begin setting up the water delivery system before work begins in earnest on the pumphouse.
Duttlinger said the long-time project's target date for completion is before the new year.
"Realistically, I would say November," Duttlinger said. "It's taken time to put it together, and it's seasonal work too. You can only really work on the canal when it's dry."