Canton Repository

July 20, 2004

Regula bill adds $10 million for local canalway

Copley Washington correspondent

WASHINGTON -- A bill written by Rep. Ralph Regula that would add $10 million in funding to pay for continuing development of the Ohio & Erie National Heritage Canalway surprised supporters with its quick passage in the House on Monday.

“We are very surprised but at the same time very grateful for and thankful for Congressman Regula’s outstanding leadership in this matter,” said Daniel M. Rice, president and CEO of the Ohio & Erie Canal Corridor Coalition, which is involved in the project.

When he introduced the proposal last month, Regula, R-Bethlehem Township, expressed doubts about its chances of passing this year. The bill also includes funding for several other historic areas around the country, which was attached to Regula’s original proposal.

The House approved the legislation in a voice vote, a sign that it is not controversial.

That augurs well for passage in the Senate, where Regula said the chief obstacle is getting the proposal considered in the final months of the legislative session.

Regula said he plans to talk with two key senators this week — Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Pete V. Domenici, R-N.M., and subcommittee chairman Craig Thomas, R-Wyo. — to encourage them to bring the bill to a vote.

“If they would move it, I think it would pass without any problem on the Senate floor,” Regula said.

The proposal would increase to $20 million the amount of federal funding available to the canalway through 2027.

Current law authorizes up to $10 million in funds through 2012.

The historic corridor follows a portion of the 19th century canal route, traveling south from Cleveland to Massillon and Canton and Dover and New Philadelphia.

Regula introduced the legislation because the allotment of federal funds for the corridor is expected to run out within a few years.

About $7 million of the available $10 million in federal funds has been spent to preserve more than two dozen historic structures along the 101-mile towpath and launch preservation and education programs.

State and local governments and private donors also have contributed $277 million to the effort.