Aug. 20, 2015
Kaukauna, Wis., August 20, 2015–The Fox River Navigational System Authority (FRNSA) announces completion of the lock restoration project which returns the sytem to working order for navigation. The entire ten-year project that involved restoration and repair to 16 operating locks on the 39-mile Fox River waterway was completed on time and under budget.
The final five locks in Kaukauna will open in a public ceremony on Tuesday, August 25, 2015. At that time, water will flow through Kaukauna’s locks for the first time in 30 years. The public ceremony will take place at 4:00 p.m. at the lock located at the FRNSA offices at 1008 Augustine St., Kaukauna.
“We have restored a piece of living history for the citizens of Wisconsin,” said Tim Rose, chairman of the board of directors for the FRNSA. “Today, the river’s economy is based on tourism and recreation and now all residents have access to the waterway and the quality of life it offers.” Navigation of the length of the Fox River ended in 1987, but the ten-year project restores large portions to full navigation.
Construction started on this phase of restoration in 2013, in which the five locks in the city of Kaukauna were rebuilt by crews from CR Meyer Construction and The Boldt Company. Locks that were originally built in the 1850s were refurbished by 21st century tradespeople uncovering 19th century materials. “The lock system is on the historical register, so lock gates were replicated to the original wood construction with usable existing metal,” said Bill Goodall, construction project manager from Boldt. “It’s not something you do every day.”
Restoration of all but one of the 17 locks in Appleton, Menasha, Little Chute, Combined Locks, and DePere was started in 2005 and completed in phases. The lock at Rapide Croche will remain closed to prevent aquatic invasive species from migrating from the Great Lakes to the Fox River and Lake Winnebago. “We are passionate stewards of the Fox River environment,” Bob Stark, chief executive officer of the FRNSA. “Our long-term plan for the waterway calls for keeping this lock closed and to prevent aquatic invasive species moving upstream.”
The FRNSA has proposed building a boat lift/transfer and cleaning station at the Rapide Croche lock site which would allow boaters to navigate the entire length of the river after boats are cleaned and inspected. A hot water cleaning process will flush each boat’s propulsion systems, intakes, and exhaust ports to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species. This proposal is under review for approval by the Wisconsin Department of Natural resources.
The Fox River lock system is only one of two hand-operated lock systems in the country and the system in Ohio is not fully restored. As they have done for generations, lock tenders staff the gates from May-October and open the locks for both recreational and commercial vessels. Daily permits to enter the locks are based on the length of the boat: $6.00 for boats less than 26 feet; $12.00 for boats 26 feet or greater, and $120 for a season pass.
“Before there were roads, the river was the cultural and economic corridor of Northeast Wisconsin,” Stark said. “This project has state and national historic significance and we have provided for the sustainable operation of the locks system.”
The locks were formerly under the management of the Army Corps of Engineers. In 1984, the Corps of Engineers announced it would shut down the locks. At that time, Individual citizens who were passionate about the impact of the lock system organized and worked with state and federal elected officials to create the Authority.
For more information on the operation of the locks, fees and future plans, please visit www.foxlocks.org.