The Erie Canal’s Lock 6 is getting a $14.9 million face-lift, and blasting began this week.
“They are blasting the concrete chamber walls, which are in desperate need of repair, and the walls will be resurfaced.” said Carmella Mantello, director of the New York State Canal Corp.
Two blasts are expected to occur each weekday between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m., and this will go on about two weeks. State officials said no disruption to town or village residents is expected. The work crews are using primer cord, which is put onto the chamber walls, ignited and causes an explosion. A heavy rubber mat is placed against the wall to keep pieces from flying into the air.
The blasting is being done to build the walls from scratch, said Canal Corp. spokeswoman Erin Agans.
The modern day canal was completed in 1925 and the surface of the chamber in Lock E-6 has been damaged through the years. After they blast the chamber walls, crews will rehabilitate them.
The Canal Corp. is also installing a coffer dam to isolate the water on both sides while the work is done.
The project, which will be completed in 2010, includes additional work on the machinery used to operate the locks. The lock house, which is near Lock 6, is also being rehabilitated.
The upstream and downstream miter gates — doors that open and close when the water is released — will be replaced. The cable support bridge near the lock will be refurbished and two gates will be rewired.
The area will be landscaped, and the restroom facility that has been closed will be removed.
Lock 6 is one of 57 locks in the system, and the $14.9 million rehab project covers just this one lock.
Other locks along the canal are also in need of repair, but Mantello said the Canal Corporation is limited to two rehabilitation projects a year.
“This is an aging infrastructure. At times, people are not aware how much the cost is to keep this aging system in place,” said Mantello.
Many people might think when the canals close for the season to boat traffic, people go into hibernation, but much of the maintenance on the canal system takes place during the winter.
Despite the sour economy, the rehabilitation work is important, said Mantello. An economic impact study done in 2002 determined $380 million is generated each year through tourism in New York because of the canal.
Main Street is coming back to life because of the canal in cities like Waterford. Other municipalities are tapping into the canal, including Amsterdam and Fonda, which are looking for public access.
The work on Lock 6 is being done by Kubricky Construction of Glens Falls, which was awarded the $14.9 million contract.