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.