Waterford lock gets its once a decade cleaning

February 07, 2019 04:02 PM

WATERFORD - February is apparently the perfect time to spruce up the Erie Canal. Maintenance, inspection and repair work is underway.

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— John Craig (@JohnCraigWNYT) February 7, 2019

The weather on Thursday was perfect for a big job like this.

It's 55-feet down into Lock 2 in Waterford, cleaning out sludge and gunk from the past 10 years. It's just one part of the maintenance and upgrades done to a handful of Erie Canal locks each year.

"These first five locks on the Erie Canal – Locks 2 through 6 – lift boats 170 feet in just a mile and a half," said John Callaghan with the NYS Canal Corporation. "Put that into perspective, that's twice the total lift of the entire Panama Canal. So no small engineering feat. It takes a lot of work during the winter season to make sure it's working correctly."

Run by the Power Authority, first they de-water. Then, inspect the gates and the valves.

A wagon body valve weighing 11,000 pounds will help flood the chamber each time a boat arrives during navigation season.

"On the other side of the chains that raise and suspend those valves are counterweights," said Callaghan.

"We have boaters from all over the world who've gone through Waterford. We have a log down at the Visitors Center. You'd be surprised the people where they're from – Australia. I mean, it's unbelievable we've had those people who've been here," said Waterford Mayor Bert Mahoney.

"We also know that these canals are still used for commerce. It would be my hope that they get more use now than they do," said Republican State Senator Daphne Jordan of Halfmoon.

Everything's inspected, including tunnels that run parallel to the lock chamber.

"It's good to see infrastructure being repaired. That's a good thing," said Mahoney.

"These valves are raised and lowered by massive steel chains around cup wheels. Those cup wheels are on an axle that are manipulated by 100-year-old electrical DC motors. Basically, the same equipment that's been in service for 100 years," said Callaghan.

Due to how the repairs are staggered, repair crews won't get back to the lock for about another decade.

There are 57 locks along the system. A few are done each year.


WNYT Staff

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