Major repairs set at Lock 6

The Erie Canal Lock 6 will soon be getting a multimillion-dollar facelift.
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The Erie Canal Lock 6 will soon be getting a multimillion-dollar facelift.

The New York State Canal Corp. is planning a $10 million to $20 million project that will replace all four steel gates of the lock, resurface its concrete chamber and upgrade the surrounding infrastructure.

The Canal Corp. hopes to finish the project by 2010. Bids are currently being accepted from contractors for the project, and construction is expected to start as early as this summer.

“This is a capital project that’s long overdue,” said Canal Corp. Director Carmella Mantello. “It’s one of those prioritized projects that we need to get rehabbed.”

Work will be done on the dock house, the electrical wiring and other infrastructure starting this summer, Mantello said. The heavy lifting starts in the winter and early spring when the lock is closed.

Once the lock is closed for the season, workers will pump out all of the remaining water in the lock so that the chamber is empty and completely dry before the concrete walls can be resurfaced. The lock is 328 feet long and 45 feet wide.

One of the most expensive and visible parts of the project will be replacing all four of the lock’s gates, which are nearly 30 years old.

The large gates allow boats to get in and out of the lock and help regulate the amount of water inside.

The lock lifts boats through the canal system, so gates at one end are about 22 feet deep and 27 feet wide and gates at the other end are 54 feet deep and 27 feet wide.

Once the gates are closed, the lock fills up with water and then one set of gates is opened so the boat can continue its journey. Some of the gates weigh over 50 tons.

The old gates will be removed with cranes and new gates will be trucked in during the night. The steel gates are so large that the transport usually requires a police escort.

“It’s a very complicated, complex; timing has to be perfect,” Mantello said. “It takes a couple days to actually replace the gates.”

STS Steel in Schenectady has worked on similar projects for the Canal Corp. in the past and will be one of the subcontractors bidding to do the Lock 6 gate replacement project.

“There’s always some competition that comes out of some place,” said James Stori, the company’s president. “We’re certainly going to give it our best shot.”

Stori said that he expected that one set of the gates will be replaced in 2009 and the other set will be replaced in 2010. STS Steel replaced two gates at the Erie Canal Lock 4 last year for $1.5 million.

“Each consultant has their own method of evaluating and method of designing the gates so they tend to be slightly different,” Stori said. “We’ve been pretty successful at them.”

Mantello said that the Canal Corp. has about $30 million budgeted this year for capital projects.

“We have over 1,700 structures throughout the 524-mile network,” she said. “Our folks do an incredible job day in and day out to put Band-Aids on structures.”

Lock 6 is at the end of the Waterford flight, which carries boats between the Mohawk and Hudson rivers and around the Cohoes Falls.

Boats are lifted approximately 170 feet in the 90 minutes it takes to travel through all five locks.

Mantello said that constant inspections and repairs are necessary because if any of the Waterford flight locks ever became inoperable, boaters would be stranded in Waterford until repairs were complete.

“The artery from Albany to Buffalo would be cut off,” she said. “The canal is one of those economic lifelines.”

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