Canal to open – but not here, Lock 12 shut down till August


By PJ Ferguson

The New York State Canal Corporation is targeting to open all locks along the Champlain Canal on July 4 – except for Lock 12 in Whitehall.

According to a website statement, the last gateway between the Champlain Canal and the open waters of the lake is “forecast to open August 10.”

“It makes no sense,” responded town board member Stephanie Safka upon supervisor John Rozell delivering the news. “It’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.”

The plan is “tentative” but most of the 524-mile canal system in the state is set for opening on Independence Day with Lock 12 in Whitehall and Lock 7 in Oswego marked with the latest openings.

The delay for Lock 12’s opening is due to “lock maintenance,” said canal corp spokesman Shane Mahar.

Of the 57 locks in the state canal system, every year certain locks are designated as “pump-out locations,” a winter maintenance project that Mahar analogizes to a “full engine rebuild” of a car, involving removing all of the working parts of the structure and putting them back together.

Locks are on average pumped out every 10 years, Mahar said.

Maintenance has been on hold since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Construction in the state restarted this week as the industry was deemed essential for phase one of its reopening plan.

However, Mayor Phil Smith said he does not believe that construction at the lock has resumed yet, despite the governor permitting agencies to do so.

Mayor Phil Smith

“I haven’t seen any activity there,” said Smith, who said he believes the Canal Corporation has a “couple months of work” to do on the structure. “It’s disappointing.”

Preventing boaters from Canada from traveling the canal, businesses along the waterway and in the village could see a significant hit this summer.

One of those businesses, the Marina and Tavern on Lock 12, which sits on the north end of lock, is anticipating losses.

“Financially and logistically, it’s a disaster for us,” said owner Lynn Wagemann, whose business relies heavily on traffic from the waterway.

For Wagemann, this move comes as “more salt in the wound,” after the pandemic has forced closure of his bar and restaurant which cannot open for in-house dining until phase three.

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