Construction is underway to restore a portion of the I&M Canal right here in Ottawa. A good deal of people don’t know much about the work aside from that it’s happening and the gas leak that happened earlier in the summer. Work has been steady ever since it started. Although the work was not without trouble.
Construction workers hit a gas line while digging out the canal on Tuesday, July 31. The gas leak caused the city police department to evacuate the Sands Motel and First State Bank. The people forced to evacuate were sent to the OTHS area. Along with the evacuation, the Illinois Department of Transportation and the State Police District 17 shut down all traffic on Route 23 out of concern for civilian safety. Later that day around 11 am, Nicor Gas shut off the flow until the leak was patched. Work later resumed that day.
As you may have seen already as you passed over the canal, a half-mile portion of it is being worked on and restored so it can hold water once again for the first time in over 80 years. Construction began on July 8 of this year, which is just one day away from being exactly 100 years since the last time the ground was broke on the canal on July 9, 1918 to turn the canal into a waterway. The work being done now is instead a project to boost tourism and increase
publicity to our city. “I mean, it’d help tourism for the town and I’m not from here, so I think it’d
be interesting to see what the canal was like in the old days” history teacher, Matt Smith said. “There’s not many people around that can remember the canal being full anymore, and I think that the project is a cool idea” Smith said.
In the past, the canal was a waterway from Ottawa to Chicago and drew quite the crowd to Ottawa from people wanting to take a boat into Chicago. The canal was used until the early 1900s until it was beaten out by the Illinois Waterway System and was drained of water in 1933, which was later trumped by Interstate 55.