In early June, heavy rainfall caused the Schoharie Creek in eastern New York to overflow. According to the New York State Thruway Authority, the increased flow of water from the Schoharie Creek watershed severely damaged a portion of the moveable dam gates and bridge superstructure at Lock E-12 (moveable dam 8) in Fort Hunter in Montgomery County, west of Albany. Officials said an inordinate amount of rain in the region generated high water levels and rapid currents on the Schoharie Creek and in the Mohawk River bringing a large amount of debris directly into the dam’s gates. The pressure of the debris and the fast moving currents caused one of the lock gates to give way at its hanger plates. The lock could no longer control the water level of the river behind the lock.
The damage forced the New York State Thruway Authority, the state agency that regulates and oversees the state’s canal operations, to close the lock June 7th to boat traffic. County Route 27 was also closed to vehicular traffic and remains closed as state officials assess the damage to the bridge. Without the bridge, which connects Tribes Hill with Fort Hunter, the detour to travel between the villages within sight of each other is 12 mi.
The emergency lock closing came at the height of the recreational boating season along the Erie Canal. Boat traffic was forced to take a major detour through the Champlain Canal to the St. Lawrence River and into Lake Ontario to avoid the damaged lock.
With the boating season at stake, Lock 12 needed to be reopened, and fast. In less than a week after the damage, New York State sought bids for a temporary fix. The very next day (June 15th) the $1.6 million contact was awarded to the low bidder – Chemung Contracting Corporation of Pine City, NY.
That’s when the Chemung County company went into action. In less than 24 hours, a crew and equipment were deployed and arrived on site. By June 16th, a P & H C-120 crawler crane arrived on seven tractor-trailers along with a Cat 350 excavator, Cat loaders and ICE pile hammers.
One of the first tasks the company completed was to apply for New York State Department of Transportation permits to move their many over-sized truckloads of construction equipment. With the permits quickly in hand, a second 100-ton crawler crane, Flex-I-float barges and a tug were loaded and hit the road bound for eastern New York.
“We have experienced, dedicated people on the job. We also have one of the largest fleets of company-owned cranes, barges and miscellaneous marine equipment in the upstate area,” explained Tom Farmer, Chemung Contracting Corporation’s vice president and estimator. “We’re always ready to roll.”
Farmer said having the equipment available in a moment’s notice and being able to transport the necessary tools to complete a job on the water by land helps to make them fast.
“It’s a tough job but we had it done on schedule in two weeks,” Farmer said.
Chemung Contracting mobilized 20 workers to Montgomery County. Working around the clock, seven days a week, the crew worked double shifts to build a cofferdam, designed by Hartman Engineering, across the southern half of the moveable dam/bridge.
The cellular cofferdam consists of seven barrels, 34 ft. (10 m) in diameter, with interlocking arms on either end, driven into the riverbed and then filled with gravel. Farmer said 64 piles were used in each cofferdam cell.
The temporary fix stretches across 240 ft. (73 m) of river. The state plans to repair the damaged gate after the canal navigation season ends Nov. 1. When working properly, the canal dams are able to rise up in the winter months to allow ice to flow down river. During warm weather, the dam is lowered to hold back water to regulate river levels.
Work on the cofferdam was completed July 1st just 16 days after bids for the job were open. Lock E-12 was opened for boat business July 3rd.
Crews were driving piles by the first Sunday, Farmer said. More than a million pounds of sheet piling and fabricated corners supplied by L.B. Foster were used to build the cellular cofferdams. Skyline Steel provided supplemental used sheeting.
The temporary dam will allow for safe navigation for the remainder of the canal boating season, which concludes Nov. 1.
“A key player was Santos Construction Corporation of Amsterdam, New York, a local gravel supplier,” Farmer said. “They hung in there and delivered cell fill whenever it was needed even if it meant a Sunday night.”
By finishing the dam by July 1st, Chemung Contracting Corporation avoided a $30,000 per day penalty.
“I want to thank Chemung Corporation and our Canal employees for working so hard to make these emergency repairs quickly and professionally under trying conditions,” said New York State Canal Corporation Executive Director John Platt. “With this reopening, boaters can now enjoy all the beauty and majesty New York State’s Canal System has to offer.”
Chemung Contracting Corporation specializes in fast response bridge, canal, and airport work. The company, located west of Elmira, replaced the Route 28 bridge over the Erie Canal in Herkimer, NY ($11.2 million), rehabilitated the lock and dam on the Oswego River in Minetto, NY ($3.0 million), repaired the bridge and lock gates in Phoenix, NY ($14.4 million), repaired runway at the Naval Air Station in Patuxent River, MD ($3.3 million), and rehabilitated a runway and parallel taxiway at Erie International Airport in Erie, PA ($5.5 million).