PLANS FOR THE PANAMA CANAL.
[Special correspondence of FIRE AND WATER]
ASPINWALL, C. A., December 19, 1898
Whether, in the face of the fact that the United States Government will probably undertake the building of the Nioaragua canal, it will also care to assume a proprietary risk in the Panama canal is a question that need not be discussed in your columns. The new company, which, it is said, will undertake the work of completing the canal is not trying to influence the Federal Government financially in the scheme but, it is reported, is not unwilling to admit it as a partner, and that on no exorbitant terms. An enormous expenditure has already been incurred, and about two-fifths of the canal has been completed. Fourteen miles on the Atlantic side and four on the Pacific side are now navigable,and part of the intervening mountain has been materially cut. The company now knows exactly what conditions confront it, and the element of chance has been largely eliminated from the undertaking—all the more that the topography of the ground is known as well as the character of the materials to be encountered during the future progress of the work and the soundness of the foundations for locks and other structures.
It was originally proposed to build the canal from ocean to ocean without locks. The plan had to be abandoned, however, on account of the enormous amount of excavation necessary to cut through the central mass of the mountains (the Culebra) and the difficulty and enormous expense of taking proper care of the occasional heavy overflow of the Chagres river. Three alternative plans were then presented for adoption, according to the period remaining in which the canal could be completed and the expense involved. The plans differed chiefly in the depths of the cut to be made through the mountain. The deeper the cut, the fewer locks would be required. The plans contemplated utilizing the Chagres river as a feeder for the canal. Artificial lakes aie provided for to accommodate the overflow, which lakes, in return, will be used to generate electrical power to furnish electric lights along the entire canal, and to operate the locks. The new Panama Canal Company, after acquiring the plant of the old and such new machinery as was found necessary, went to work with a force of men averaging more than 4.000, besides a large engineering force; and that number of men is now employed. Mechanical devices for 3 water supply after a full consideration have been rejected, it having been decided to harness the Chagres into service by erecting a big dam, higher up on the Chagres, for the double purpose of storing water during freshets and of furnishing a source of supply by means of a special channel to the canal. One of these dams will be at Bohio, at the last group of locks on the Atlantic side. The lake formed by the dam is to cover nearly 15,000 acres. The second dam will be located at Alhajuela on the upper Chagres, and the reservoir formed by it will cover 6,400 acres.