Relief may be in sight for the C&O Canal and federal park lands in Harpers Ferry, W.Va., that were heavily damaged by the flood-swollen Potomac River last month.

A measure approved last week by the Senate Appropriations Committee for the first time would give the secretary of the interior authority to use the department's emergency funds to repair flood damage.

Authorities estimate that the cost of making repairs to the 189-mile-long canal and towpath between Washington and Cumberland, Md., and to historic lands and buildings at Harpers Ferry will exceed $10 million.

Most of the damage wrought by the flood in Harpers Ferry was to park property. Most artifacts there were saved, but 22 flooded buildings were closed and officials have estimated that the repairs will take six months to a year to complete.

Portions of the C&O Canal were ripped as the Potomac surged over retaining walls. The towpath, a popular hiking, biking and jogging strip that divides the canal and the river, was completely washed away in some places.

The appropriations measure, sponsored by Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) and urged by Sen. Charles McC. Mathias Jr. (R-Md.), would permit Interior Secretary Donald P. Hodel to tap emergency funds immediately for necessary repairs.

The measure would be included in Congress' continuing resolution for federal funding, which is expected to come up for a vote this week, but it would be subject to presidential veto.