USACE Buffalo District engineer visits his project after more than 30 years in retirement

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Published Feb. 26, 2018
Retired former U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Design Chief Joseph Foley tours the Eisenhower and Snell Navigation Locks on the St. Lawrence Seaway in Aug. 2017.

Retired former U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Design Chief Joseph Foley tours the Eisenhower and Snell Navigation Locks on the St. Lawrence Seaway in Aug. 2017.

For many design engineers, their projects are in a way like their children. They defend their projects while they are progressing through the design development and construction phases. They also tend to check up on them after the construction is complete, and monitor and assure their successful operation.

Recently, one of our own retirees, Joseph A. Foley, took a tour of one of the most significant design and construction projects in Buffalo District history. Mr. Foley toured the Eisenhower and Snell Navigation Locks up on the Saint Lawrence Seaway in the summer of 2017. 

“Chris Guimond and his team were the most gracious hosts as I walked down memory lane,” said Joseph Foley. "I remember well the frigid winters when we were lowered into the lock to do our annual inspections. The advancements of technology that have been applied to the operation of the locks is truly impressive—especially the control room.”

Foley was a “working level engineer” in the mid-1950s when the Seaway was being built, and this project was his baby. He wanted to visit the project to see how the project site had developed over time. Mr. Foley’s son Kevin, who accompanied him on the visit, recalled that summer vacations were taken in the St. Lawrence area and that his father would make site visits to the locks as he was working on deficiency issues.

"It's been many decades since I was last there [visiting the locks], and it's still an impressive engineering marvel, said Kevin Foley. "It was a great experience to see the team at the locks interact with my father as they were showing him the technology they use to monitor seaway traffic from one control room."

Mr. Foley started his career in the Buffalo District back in 1955. He was a designer who quickly established a reputation as being a top-notch concrete designer for the U.S. locks on the St. Lawrence Seaway (Eisenhower and Snell Locks). This was a time in which Buffalo District was the Lock and Dam Design Center for the Corps.  Many of the navigation locks built in the country in the 1960s and early 1970s were designed by Buffalo District. Mr. Foley himself worked on Thomas O’Brien Lock, Saint Anthony Falls, Dardanelle, Robert S. Kerr, Poe, and Red River Waterway Locks.  Mr. Foley also supported major concrete repair projects to both the lock chamber face and culvert construction deficiency issues on the St. Lawrence Seaway in the late 1960s. There is no doubt that Mr. Foley’s expertise and reputation aided the District in obtaining Lock and Dam design work from Pittsburgh District, especially the Dashields and the Lower Monongahela Lock and Dam design efforts in the early to mid-1980s.

As his career developed, Mr. Foley was also involved on other type of project within Buffalo District.  He worked in the Emergency Operations Center on “Operation Snow Go” during the Blizzard of 1977. He also later served as Chief of the Diked Disposal Section, which assured the management, construction, operations, maintenance, and repair of all the confined disposal facilities for the District. Eventually, Foley took the Design Branch Chief’s position and was instrumental in the design and construction of the Ellicott Creek and Scajaquada Creek Flood Control Projects. Mr. Foley worked for the Buffalo District between 1955 and 1986 and he was inducted as a Distinguished Employee of Buffalo District in 2013. Mr. Foley recently moved to Florida to be closer to his daughter.