Not many people can say they've see the inside of a seaway lock system, but local officials from the North Country were given the opportunity to climb down into the Snell Lock in Massena and see the winter maintenance commence. As Cara Thomas tells us, they learned how the lock and seaway systems work and even more about their economic impact on the United States and Canada.
MASSENA, N.Y. -- "To stand there on the bottom with so much pressure and so much water on the other side, it was a little bit intimidating," said Senator Patty Ritchie.
While the Snell Lock in Massena is closed for winter maintenance, only an iron wall keeps the St. Lawrence River at bay.
Ritchie said, "It was an experience to go to the bottom of the lock and see how it actually all works and I have a new found understanding of what the workers are doing and the jobs they do."
Twenty-one million gallons of water is drained so that 70 workers can repair and maintain the lock making it fully functional for the spring.
Collister Johnson Jr. of the St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation said, "Because this is an asset that is a perpetual asset, we have to renew it so it can last for another 50 years."
Johnson says the lock's importance tends to be forgotten, but without it, ships could not travel from the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes. And without the Seaway, the U.S and Canada would suffer a huge economic loss.
"We had an economic impact study done recently and there's 72,000 jobs here and in Canada that depend upon the Seaway working well," said Johnson.
And to make sure that's the case for years to come, a 10 year, $180 million renewal program is keeping this seaway in tip-top shape. And The Seaway Development Corporation wanted to share this with the community up close and personal.
Johnson said, "The importance is to show the community, Massena, Clayton and surrounding areas that this effort and activity is going on and is actually quite important to the economy."
The program consists of 58 projects that are worked on year round.
The administrator for the Seaway's Development Corporation says since the renewal project began over three years ago in Massena, about $35 million has been spent locally in restaurants, lodging and gas. He says the projects at Snell Lock represent the largest number of contractors working on the Seaway since the 1950s.
To find out more about the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Asset Renewal Program go to www.greatlakes-seaway.com.