Re-flooding the Fox Locks

Posted on Aug 26, 2015 :: Insight on Business, Web Exclusive.
Sean P. Johnson
Posted by of Insight Publications
The Fox River Locks at Kaukauna were flooded for the first time in 30 years as restoration of the system was finally completed.

The first boat to enter the Kaukauna Locks in 30 years capped a celebration marking a milestone in the restoration of the historic system. All together, 16 of the 17 locks on the Fox River have now been restored to operating condition.

After a decade of work, the locks between De Pere and Menasha on the Fox River System are now operational.

Lock No. 3 in Kaukauna was re-flooded yesterday for the first time in almost 30 years. Once a vital cog in the region’s transportation system, the Fox Locks were closed in the 1980s as maintenance costs grew.

In 2005, the Fox River Navigational System Authority began restoring and rebuilding historic lock system on the Fox River, when only three of the 17 locks were operational.

“This is a significant day because these locks haven’t operated in a long time and the deterioration was severe,” says Bob Stark, with the Fox River Navigational System Authority. “This was a huge repair job but we are done, and we came in under the original budget.”

The Kaukauna Locks were restored by Boldt Construction Co. and CR Meyer. Repair of the 17 locks that make up the entire system took nearly 10 years and $14.5 million to complete.

The locks were originally build in the mid-to-late 1800’s to make for easier navigation for the manufacturing industry. The river drops about the equivalent of Niagara Falls on its journey from Lake Winnebago to Green Bay.

Even though this last lock is finally finished, boaters will not be able to use the lock until 2017. Three bridges surrounding locks are currently being restored.

This is the first time there has been water in this section in almost 30 years.

The Rapide Croche Lock will remain sealed, to prevent sea lamprey and other invasive species from coming up stream into the Winnebago system. The other locks in the system are located at Menasha, Appleton (4), Cedars, Little Chute, Combined Locks (2), Kaukauna (5), Little Kaukauna and De Pere.