Niagara Gazette

January 20, 2014

Erie Canal restoration work in mid 'Flight'

Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — LOCKPORT — Work at locks 69 and 70, the initial phase of the Flight of Five canal locks restoration, is expected to be completed by July — at the latest.

“... we do expect to wrap up sooner than that,” Shane Mahar, deputy director of communications for the New York Thruway Authority and Canal Corp., said last week.

Work at the two locks includes the stone walls being restored and new wooden floors being installed. The goal is to restore the site to its 1862-era condition.

The project is aimed at restoring operability to two of the five locks in the 170-year-old series. Hohl Industrial Services of Tonawanda is the contractor.

About 100 years ago, a parallel set of five locks on the south side of the Erie Canal was torn out and replaced with the larger, current locks E34 and E35. The picturesque remnants on the north side have served as a spillway and garbage collector for the modern locks ever since.

Since Hohl Industrial started the project in late fall, workers removed a ton of sediment and waste from the lock chambers. While cleaning the walls, they discovered an engraving in the limestone, “D. Toohill, 1912.” 

According to what Canal Corp. was able to determine, a D. Toohill died in Lockport around 1966, Mahar said.

Canal Corp. is supervising construction because the locks are state property. The restored locks are to be operated and maintained by the City of Lockport, which is developing a tourist attraction.

The two-locks project is called a “demonstration” project or an “initial” phase of restoration. The all-volunteer Lockport Locks Heritage District Committee, which started working on restoration in 2004, anticipates that once charitable funders see some restoration realized, they’ll be eager to contribute the money to have the series fully restored.

The two-locks project tab is $2.6 million. Returning function to the remaining locks will take another $8 million, according to Bergmann Associates, the engineering firm that’s designed the project.

Contact reporter Joe Olenick at 439-9222, ext. 6241 or follow him on Twitter @joeolenick.