3 years and $28 million later, Lock O-7 back in business

Above left, Lock O-7 on the Oswego Canal opens to allow a vessel passage Monday morning; above right, in this January 2019 photo taken from the same location on the Utica Street Bridge, crews from regional contractors including Crane-Hogan Structural Systems, Longhouse Construction Group and O'Connell Electric Company perform the “enormous” facelift.

EDIT: 11:04 a.m. Aug. 12

This story has been updated to more accurately reflect the nature and composition of the construction contractors.

OSWEGO — After a three-year, $28 million reconstruction project, Oswego Canal Lock O-7 opened Monday for the 2020 navigation season.

Both Locks O-6 and O-7 will now be open daily from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. through Oct. 13, 2020, according to officials from the New York State Canal Corporation. With the opening of those two locks, the entire Oswego Canal is now open for navigation. On Monday morning, vessels could be seen gliding through the calm waters of the lock — which now barely resembles its former form.

Work crews have been a constant sight at Lock O-7, located just before Utica Street on state Route 481 heading north into the city of Oswego, since 2017. Waterway locks like O-7 function by lowering and raising water levels to allow vessels to travel between sections of the Oswego River and Oswego Canal. With renovations and replacements finally complete except for final touches on the the parking lot and installing accessibility provisions, the century-old boat elevator is at the end of a process that saw the “effective construction of an all-new lock on the footprint of the existing lock.”

“The New York State Canal system has National Landmark Designation so the equipment and materials that make up the locks must be replaced in-kind,” said Canal Corp Director and SUNY Oswego alumnus Brian Stratton “This retains the historic nature of the structure while giving the lock a new start on life. However, this also presents a unique challenge — some of the components used in the locks are over 100 years old and are no longer commercially available.”

Among the contractors who labored through the "tough three years," according to one who spoke to The Palladium-Times, were Crane-Hogan Structural Systems, Longhouse Construction Group and O'Connell Electric.

Locks on the Oswego Canal measure 300 feet by 45 feet. The canal follows the entirety of the Oswego River, connecting at the Three Rivers (Oneida, Seneca, Oswego) Basin at a depth of 14 feet and width of 120 feet.

Officials in the village of Phoenix have in recent years undertaken a significant expansion project between Locks O-1 and O-2, and the canal runs through the city of Fulton, town of Minetto before exiting with the river into Lake Ontario at Lock O-8 just before Bridge Street.

As part of its scheduled maintenance beginning in 2017, Lock O-7 saw a major overhaul. According to Canal Corp officials, the first year of work included rebuilding the upstream side of the lock including replacement of valves, gates and mechanical and electrical equipment. Major concrete reconstruction of the approach walls, bypass tunnels and bridge abutments also began in 2017, as well as construction of a new lock house.

In the second year of the project, the same scope of work was performed on the opposite, downstream side of the lock according to the Canal Corp. In year three, concrete reconstruction was performed within the lock chamber itself and the lock house was completed.

New York has been in the canal business for more than 200 years, so it should come as no surprise that it’s equipped to deal with the “enormous” job.

“Each region along the Canal system has a machine shop with experienced teams of machinists that can make new custom parts when items need to be replaced,” Stratton said.

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