In March 2015, the historic Caledonian Canal was closed to boats after floods caused by heavy rain and melting snow undermined a weir at Cullochy near Fort Augustus, washing over half the structure away and causing a major breach in the canal embankment.
Scottish Canals and its contractors, who were on-site within hours, had to battle with significant volumes and velocity of water to repair the damage, with more than 20 tonnes passing through the breach every second – the equivalent of four fully-grown African elephants.
A temporary rock dam was established at nearby Aberchalder Bridge to stem the flow before work began installing sheet piling across the remains of the weir and backfilling behind it with more than 1000 tonnes of rock and recovered material. The teams then removed the sand and gravel that was washed out of the canal embankment and weir into the River Oich and, together with the rock retrieved from the dam, used it to reform the canal embankment.
Steve Dunlop, Chief Executive of Scottish Canals, said: “The works to repair Cullochy Weir were among the most testing that Scottish Canals and its contractors have undertaken in many years and we’re delighted to announce the completion of the initial consolidation of the weir and the reopening of the Caledonian Canal to all boat traffic today.
We’d like to offer our thanks to the local community, our commercial operators and boaters for their patience and understanding during the works and look forward to working with them during another busy season on the Caledonian Canal.
“While there’s no way to predict events such as these, our emergency procedures and training meant we were able to react swiftly and effectively. Scottish Canals’ staff and contractors were on site within hours of the breach, bringing the water under control and implementing a plan to repair the damage, safeguard the rich built heritage of the Caledonian Canal and bring the waterway back into use as soon and as safely as possible.
“Used by everyone from holidaymakers and day-trippers to leisure boats and commercial operators, the Caledonian Canal plays in a vital role in the economy of the Highlands and, throughout the repair, we were aware of how important it was for local communities that we brought it back into use as fast as we possibly could.
“We are acutely aware of the economic impact the closure has had on our commercial operators and local businesses and, following the reopening of the canal, we are dedicated to continuing to work with them to ensure they enjoy a successful season.
“This project really is a fantastic example of how a team of empowered and motivated people can work together to overcome even the most monumental of tasks. We’d like to offer our thanks to the local community, our commercial operators and boaters for their patience and understanding during the works and look forward to working with them during another busy season on the Caledonian Canal.”