Everett and Marilyn Kaul, longtime members of the Walnutport Canal Association and caretakers of the Walnutport Locktender's House, have been waiting for two years for repairs to be made to lock 23, which was damaged in August 2011 by flash flooding from Hurricane Irene.
Those repairs finally began Tuesday, and are required to be completed in 90 days.
"We will be replacing the damaged spillway with a new concrete wall and spillway, and mimicking the same type of design that they would've used on the original lock," explained project manager Jason Newhard of the Spotts, Stevens and McCoy Group. "The finished project will have a concrete wall with a pad on top with boards that face the front to make it look like it was a wooden lock gate."
According to Mike Newhard of the Walnutport Authority, when the authority saw the hurricane approaching, they installed plywood on bulkhead weirs about two miles upstream of lock 23, at the point where the Lehigh River feeds the Lehigh Canal.
This diverted the main flow of the surging river, but there was little to be done to divert the runoff from the tributary streams and the runoff from the streets.
"We had a deluge for one hour," Mike Newhard continued. "It came down so hard that the streets were flooded above the curbs, and the water drained into the canal. There was so much hydraulic pressure that it started to form leaks, and before the water level could recede, the whole thing collapsed."
What collapsed was the upstream dam on the lock a restoration of the original drop gate. It had breached and spilled its rock, concrete and timbers into the canal bed and onward downstream into the Lehigh River.
FEMA agreed to pay up to $240,000 for repairs. Spotts, Stevens and McCoy designed the restoration, and the successful contractor was Nimaris Construction of Bath with a bid of $197,000.
The damaged gate was part of a major refurbishment of the lock in 1998.
"We rebuilt the entire lock for $165,000," said Everett Kaul. "The stone underneath had to remain, We were told by the Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission not to touch that stone, that's original."
The new gate will be built of concrete with a facing of pressure-treated Southern pine. Because of the unusual lumber size required, the wood requires a special order that requires a 12-week lead time.
"I am happy that it is finally happening," said Jason Newhard. "The permitting was more than a year in itself. The issue concerned historic review."
"We waited two years and were beginning to believe that it would never happen," said Marilyn Kaul.