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TODAY’S TOPIC: Workers Peel and Replace Concrete in Seaway Lock Following moved for Friday

March 7, 1986

TODAY’S TOPIC: Workers Peel and Replace Concrete in Seaway Lock Following moved for Friday PMs and is now available for AMs

MASSENA, N.Y. (AP) _ Torrents of water normally roar through the drains at the bottom of the massive Eisenhower Lock’s concrete walls, but there’s another noise today: the din of air compressors and pneumatic drills.

″The Hole″ at the foot of the lock, beyond the 260-ton gates that open to admit or discharge ocean-going ships, is the scene of the most ambitious concrete-restoration work since the St. Lawrence Seaway opened in 1959. And laborers are hoping to complete the $2.27 million job by March 23.

The task is part of the price being paid for a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers decision when the $155 million international project was under construction to permit a contractor to substitute inferior but cheaper natural cement in the Eisenhower Lock for Portland cement, which was in short supply.

″We’ve always had this ‘poker-chip’ deterioration,″ said John B. Adams III, a spokesman for the St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corp., which operates under the U.S. Department of Transportation and oversees the seaway along with a twin agency in Canada.

Eisenhower’s inferior grade of concrete weathers badly in Massena’s harsh conditions, Adams explained. There’s no such deterioration at Snell Lock, four miles downstream, which was built with Portland cement, containing lime and other ingredients for greater cohesion.

SLSDC Administrator James L. Emery said the work may become part of a five- year, $39.2 million project to peel off and replace layers of crumbling concrete.

Eisenhower and Snell are part of a seven-lock system for lifting vessels over the 226-foot drop of the St. Lawrence River between Lake Ontario and Montreal. They are the only locks in the section owned by the United States.

The Eisenhower deterioration is just the latest maintenance headache along the seaway.

Last fall, the seaway between Lake Erie and the Atlantic Ocean was tied up for three weeks when a 170-foot wall section collapsed in the Welland Canal, 330 miles southwest of Massena.

The previous year, a bridge at Valleyfield, Quebec, was stuck for 18 days, tying up ship traffic, which carries 45 million tons of cargo a year along the seaway.

Emery said the wall collapse in the Welland Canal ″accelerated the funding process.″

At Massena, workers have covered the Eisenhower Lock with a corrugated, 18- gauge steel roof, allowing the interior to warm to 60 degrees, enough to cure concrete in winter. Scaffolds hug the 110-foot-high walls like lines in an abstract painting.

Dust floats like fog, and to keep it off the gates the machinery is draped with 140 feet of heavy plastic, looking like the abandoned furniture of a giant.

The Hole below the 860-foot-long lock is where water is expelled in order to lower freighters that can weigh up to 30,000 tons. The water rushes through a drain system made up of rows of perforated concrete walls, coursing through holes that are offset from wall to wall to slow the flow and lessen the water’s force.

About 200 employees of Germanetti Construction have been drilling, chipping and jackhammering at the lower walls to make way for 4,000 tons of new, smooth concrete.

Part of the work is to stabilize the walls, which are up to 30 feet thick, by anchoring them to bedrock with reinforced steel, Adams said.

The sections being replaced are called monoliths. Three monoliths on each side of the basin immediately below the downstream gates will be finished this year, he said, noting that the seaway would open on schedule April 3.

If Congress approves funding for Emery’s proposed stabilization and resurfacing program, 40 other monoliths in the lock will be redone. The House has passed a public-works bill that could pay for the major overhaul, but the Senate has not acted on the measure.

The federal funding help would be unprecedented if approved. The seaway has paid for past lock repairs out of its capital funds and operating budget.

Tolls assessed on vessels using the locks have been the seaway’s only source of revenue. Depending on cargo, it can cost a ship owner $35,000 in tolls to travel the length of the seaway.

The seaway corporation has about $8 million or $9 million in its capital reserve fund and about $3 million in bonding authority, said Emery. ″But you don’t want to take that down to zero, so we’re hoping Congress appropriates the money.″

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