CHESAPEAKE, Va. - The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is set to begin Dismal Swamp Canal dredging early next week - roughly a year ahead of schedule due to lingering impacts from Hurricane Matthew in 2016.

Norfolk District will manage the maintenance project in an effort to eliminate shoaling while enhancing safe navigation and local commercial interests. Officials say the work should be completed by the start of April.

The Dismal Swamp Canal, which receives water from a feeder ditch connected to Lake Drummond, runs from Deep Creek in Chesapeake to South Mills, North Carolina. Material often collects at the intersection of the canal and ditch entrance.

"That decreases the maintained depth to less than the 6 feet required for safe navigation," said Joel Scussel, Norfolk District's Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway project manager.

"The Dismal Swamp Canal is authorized to a depth of 9 feet, but we maintain to a depth of 6 feet because of limited commercial traffic there. The area where we are dredging has a high shoaling rate, so we are actually dredging to 10 feet. That way, we don't end up dredging every year."

Dredging was last done here in 2015, he added. It's normally carried out on a five-year cycle, but Matthew deposited a large amount of material in the canal and pushed the time frame up.

"We try to do dredging now due to the minimum canal traffic this time of year," Scussel said. "The vessels that use the canal do have an economic impact to Elizabeth City, North Carolina."

The $845,000 contract was awarded to Petersen Companies Inc. out of Minocqua, Wisconsin. It includes nearly $300,000 in upland placement-site repairs, which started at the end of January.

Scussel said the maintenance dredging will remove about 30,000 cubic yards of shoaling from the Dismal Swamp Canal.

Questions or concerns about this project can be referred to the USACE Norfolk District Public Affairs Office at 757-201-7606.