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Corps of Engineers to Begin Two-Year Safety, Seismic Repair Project at Willamette Falls Locks

This image, from June 2019, offers a view from just downstream of the four-lock system, located at Willamette Falls between West Linn and Oregon City.
This image, from June 2019, offers a view from just downstream of the four-lock system, located at Willamette Falls between West Linn and Oregon City.
WEST LINN, OR — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Portland District (Corps) has awarded a construction contract for completing safety and seismic repairs at Willamette Falls Locks before the agency’s official transfer of the historic navigation lock system to the Willamette Falls Locks Authority, expected to take place in 2026.

The Corps has owned the locks, placed into operation in 1873 to move river traffic around the 40-foot horseshoe-shaped falls between Oregon City and West Linn, since around 1915. In 2011, the agency closed the locks due to safety concerns and began a disposition study to determine the level of federal interest in retaining the structure. In 2019, it made the final decision to transfer ownership of the lock system.

“We’re really excited to complete these seismic repairs so we can transfer the locks to the Willamette Falls Locks Authority, and they can further develop them into the future,” said Col. Mike Helton, Commander of the Corps’ Portland District. “We understand deeply how much this iconic and beloved piece of infrastructure means to our communities, and we want to give it back to them in the safest and most responsible way possible.”

The two-year seismic retrofit project will kick off this spring with geotechnical explorations, which will involve drilling a series of holes to investigate the lock system’s substructure and ensure that seismic anchors installed throughout the repairs have been properly designed.

Upon completion of the repairs, the Corps will officially transfer the locks to the Willamette Falls Locks Authority, an 11-member public corporation established by the Oregon Legislature in 2021 to assume ownership of the lock system and oversee additional refurbishments.

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The Corps has awarded the construction contract for completing the seismic retrofits to Vancouver-based Northbank Civil and Marine, Inc.

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