DNR Commits $4.3 Million to Portage Canal Cleanup

Dredging and cleanup of a nearly three-quarter mile section of the Portage Canal is moving ahead with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources providing $4.3 million to cover the cost of the work.

“In the spirit of Gov. Evers’ declaring 2019 the Year of Clean Drinking Water, the DNR is committed to cleaning up contaminated sediments in this section of the Portage Canal,” said DNR Secretary Preston Cole. “We’re excited to work with the city on this cleanup project and look forward to seeing the bicycle and pedestrian pathways the city plans to construct along the canal.”

As the owner of the Portage Canal, the state of Wisconsin is responsible for taking the necessary actions to address the contamination that has impacted the canal. “Completing this project is one of the agency’s top priorities,” said Cole.

The canal, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is a navigable waterway, though it hasn’t been used in that capacity since 1951. From Adams Street to the Canadian Pacific Railroad bridge, the 3,600-foot stretch hasn’t been dredged in nearly a century and is contaminated with chemicals related to a history of industrial activity.

“This is great news for the city of Portage and the Portage Canal Society. This funding commitment culminates years of planning and demonstrates what can be accomplished through partnerships and cooperation,” said Portage Mayor Rick Dodd.

“The city is grateful for the tireless effort by the DNR to recognize the importance of the canal project and its history to the city of Portage. I would like to thank the DNR, especially Mark Aquino and his team for their work in seeing the importance of this project,” said Dodd.

Funding for this phase of the cleanup along the canal, which may begin as early as 2020, will come from the state’s Environmental Repair Fund and bonding. A smaller section of the canal was dredged in the summer of 2016 in conjunction with the construction of the new Columbia County Administration Building and the county’s new Health and Human Services Building.

NOTE: To see drone video of this segment of the Portage Canal, please click this link.

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