The newest history of the waterway connecting the Vistula Lagoon with the Baltic Sea (the Gulf of Gdańsk) began in 1996, with the development of a concept for the canal, designed by the team under prof. Tadeusz Jednorał commissioned by the Polish State Committee for Scientific Research, as an important part of the restructuring of the Elbląg region.
In November 2007, the government passed a resolution to build the canal in Nowy Świat by 2013. In 2014, the deadline was extended to 2020. On 24 February 2017, the Polish Parliament passed a special act on the construction of a canal through the Vistula Spit with a set deadline of 2022. The President signed the act on 3 April 2017. The main formal purpose of this investment was the security of the state. Works began in 2019 and the completion date is scheduled for 2023.
The canal with the fairway leading all the way to the seaport in Elbląg will be 23 km long, including:
- the canal through the Vistula Spit with an external harbour – 2.3 km (1.5 km of the canal itself). The canal at its widest point will be 120 m wide. One of the elements of the canal is a lock which will be 25 m wide.
- the fairway on the Vistula Lagoon – 10.2 km
- the fairway on the Elbląg river – 10.4 km
There will be two swing bridges built over the canal, enabling the continuity of road traffic (one bridge will always be open to cars), as well as a dumping island (called Wyspa Estyjska / Aestian Island) with a surface area of 181 ha. The island will be dedicated entirely to environmental purposes.
The canal will enable access to Elbląg for vessels that are 100 m, 20 m wide, and with a draught of 4.5 m (and fleets of barges up to 180 m).
The costs of construction of the canal was estimated at PLN 0.9 billion in 2016, and will about to almost PLN 2 billion.
The canal increases the accessibility of the Vistula Lagoon and the harbour of Elbląg by shortening the waterway to the sea by 30-100 km and increasing the loading capacity of vessels that can enter the port by almost five times. The Vistula Lagoon will also become more attractive for tourists and it is estimated that the benefits from the investment will amount to PLN 3.2 billion by 2045, and that it will create 3,300 new jobs.