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Erie Canal locks restoration gets $1.2M funding stream

Two of Lockport’s original Erie Canal locks are getting a $1.2 million facelift.

There is a set of five fully intact Erie Canal locks in Lockport, numbered 67-71. They are called the "Flight of Five"because they look like a flight of stairs, allowing boats to navigate the difference in elevation between Lakes Erie and Ontario. In Lockport, that difference is 60'.

Dave Kinyon, Chair of the Lockport Locks Heritage District Corporation, said one of the five locks - number 67 - was rehabbed in 2014 in Phase 1 of the project.

"Right now, we've been able to put together federal and state funding in the amount of $1.2 million to enable us to rehabilitate Lock 68," Kinyon said, "which will then just leave two remaining locks - Locks 67 and 71 - to be rehabilitated, so we can bring the Flight of Five back to operating condition."

Kinyon said Bergmann Associates of Buffalo and McMullan Consulting Engineers of Virginia researched the historic elements of the locks for accuracy, while Hohl Industrial Services is completing the work.

"Right here in Tonawanda to be the general contractor to do all of the renovation and restoration work, everything from replacing the wooden flooring, to restoring the masonry, to fabricating the wooden lock gates and the balance beams," Kinyon said. "They've done it all."

He said each lock is 110' long.

"We're currently operating a Durham-style boat as part of our demonstration, which is 50' long," he said, "so it's definitely going to be smaller vessels when all five locks are restored - kayakers, canoeists - will be able to enjoy locking through our Erie Canal Flight of Five locks."

All of the locks have been recognized as a regional asset and are expected to be rehabbed by 2025, the 200th anniversary of the completion of the Erie Canal in 1825.

"Our colleagues at the Buffalo Maritime Center right now are building an Erie Canal replica Packet Boat, which will be approximately 70' long," Kinyon said.

The Buffalo Maritime Center also built the Durham-style boat. Volunteers are being recruited to operate the now-restored locks.

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