Improvements to Black Rock Lock Dewatering Pumps

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Published Feb. 3, 2016
Black Rock Lock pump house with dewatering pumps removed. Buffalo, NY, February 1, 2016.

Black Rock Lock pump house with dewatering pumps removed. Buffalo, NY, February 1, 2016.

The Black Rock Lock, Buffalo, NY, was constructed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) from 1908-1914. The Black Rock Lock and the Black Rock Channel provide safe passage for vessels traveling between Buffalo Harbor and Tonawanda Harbor around the reefs, rapids, and fast currents that exist in the upstream portion of the Niagara River. In combination with the New York Erie Canal, the Black Rock Lock and the Black Rock Channel provide pleasure craft and canal-draft vessels an inland water route between Lake Erie and the Atlantic Ocean.

The Black Rock Lock celebrated its 100th anniversary on August 17, 2014. The fact that the lock is still going strong and operating as designed is a testament to the ongoing operations and maintenance efforts undertaken by the USACE Buffalo District NY/PA Operations and Maintenance Office. At a time when funds for investing in the Nation’s existing infrastructure are sparse, maintenance activities such as those that sustain aging infrastructure are increasingly critical.

The Black Rock lock is occasionally dewatered for routine maintenance and inspections. Dewatering the lock is accomplished with two large 100-horsepower dewatering pumps. These pumps are approximately 15 years old and have been used three times since their installation.

The lock was last dewatered in the winter of 2015. During the last dewatering effort, one of the pumps experienced cavitation, or the formation of bubbles within the pump, and was at risk of failing. This would have rendered the dewatering and the corresponding maintenance effort useless.

Corps of Engineers Project Manager David Mastriano leads the effort to ensure the pumps continue to perform their task without incident.

“This year, the pumps were pulled from their 40-foot deep pump house and shipped to Rochester, where the manufacturer, Flygt Pumps, will disassemble them for inspection and basic maintenance,” said David Mastriano, USACE Buffalo District project manager.  “At a minimum, the pumps will receive new bearings and seals, will undergo an oil change, and may receive new impellers and housings.” Basic maintenance activities such as these carry a price tag of $14,000.

Through routine and periodic maintenance of the pump, it is unlikely that a new pump will need to be purchased at a cost of $85,000. This price tag for a new pump underscores the importance of maintenance on the Black Rock Lock’s components.

Removing, maneuvering, and hauling a 3,000 pound pump is no easy task; however the pumps were removed safely, and will be reinstalled in mid-spring.