Hydroelectric Plant Sluice Gates: 2018

Whoa! The extraordinary river flow of 2017 caused some pretty drastic long-term changes to the HydroElectric Plant route.

Perhaps the most obvious is the change in the sluice gates.

This is what they used to look like:HE-Plant-Sluice-Gates---My-Sketch labelled-web

But this is what they look like today! It appears I need to resketch my sketch!09-HE-Plant-boards-gone-2018

The boards have been blown off and are now lying here and there around the gates, some in front, some inside the headpond. They went every-which-way from the constant eddies in front of and beyond the gates.

So… now you have to pay attention to the debris in front of each gate to know where you’re at, since the gates themselves all look identical. My photos aren’t the best at the moment because the visibility was bad the day I had a close look. But they’ll give you an idea.

Gate 1 (closest to shore):

Here’s what it looked like in 2016: 5 boards in place above the concrete sill.

Here’s what it looks like today:

The 5 boards are gone. Weeds cake the posts but they remain solidly in place. (Note the indentations in the canal wall. They were for “stop logs” – beams which were slid into them to slow or stop water flow if repairs were required on the gates themselves.)

The gate height is (obviously) lower and the hill of silt in front is higher so that as you approach, the current threatens to carry you over the gate before you’re ready. Be wary.

Gate 2 (middle):

Here’s what it looked like in 2016: bottom and top board in place. This photo was actually taken from inside the headpond – looking back towards the gate.

sluice-gate middle-from-headpond-web

Here’s what it looks like today: HE-Plant-second-gate-2018-web

No boards. And no weeds – hmmm.

Gate 3 (furthest from shore):

In 2016, there were no boards on top… just like today!

The debris in front of each gate differs. I’ll work on getting some shots of each and pass it along to you!



Dive Conditions late June 2018

I can comfortably say that Lock 23 conditions have returned to their pre-2017 state – we’re going to forget that last year even happened and get out there and enjoy!

For those of you who ventured out last summer, you’ll remember that extreme flooding downstream from Lake Ontario wreaked havoc on both shoreline properties and shipping channel traffic; in response to high water levels, the Seaway was forced to dramatically increase river flow in our area. This resulted in treacherous currents throughout Lock 23 and accompanying changes in eddies that were perilous for inexperienced divers.

That is all behind us now but it bears mentioning that there have been some alterations in landmarks of the overall site. We’re going to spend some time reviewing all the dive  routes and pass along the changes to you – shifting of some structures, more than normal deterioration in others, and silt build-ups in strange spots. As I get this information, I’ll update the related posts.

In the meantime, the river is slow to warm up though hot, sunny days are on the horizon. Today it remains 16.5/62F. Visibility is not bad – 10 to 12 feet. Of course weed growth is low at the start of the season so the current feels stronger in the shallows. It’s a nice time to get videos and photos of structures before weeds obscure the details.

The area where the Chem Norma went aground has caused little damage and the large wedge into the clay will quickly fill in. In the photo below, the upstream stairway leading from the “New Lock” to the outer park area was moved and bent, and large rocks and gravel were shoved up around some bollards and over into the lock itself, but otherwise there is not much to see. The ship was wedged almost exactly between these two stairways.

Top of the Wall Centre Close UP

If you drift along the outermost wall until you hit the upstream sill of the lock, and only then ascend the wall, you’ll have to work quickly because that is exactly where the stairway is and where the bow of the ship cut into the berm. You must move across the current and over the concrete (where the bollards are set) to get to the hill and the stairs.

Once the water is warmer and my fingers can work the GoPro properly as I maneuver around these things, I’ll pass the information along.

Good diving to you!



Tanker “Chem Norma” Aground on Lock 23

Quite the start to the 2018 dive season!

Larry and I were awakened in the wee hours of a recent clear night by the sound of a long, loud foghorn, followed by the frantic grinding of an engine in reverse. We looked out into the night but could see nothing amiss.

In the morning the cause was clear when we walked over to the public dock. The Chem Norma was sitting there at a slight list. We believed that it had run into the berm of the southern wall of Lock 23 which sits about 13-15 feet below the surface. You can see the yellow buoy beyond the rear of the ship, designating the eastern end of the lock below.

view from the public boat dock

We learned that the double-hulled tanker (all tankers travelling the St. Lawrence Seaway are double-hulled for safety) had lost its steering and drove into the channel wall, but that it had suffered no damage.  Efforts would soon be underway to set it free.

This proved tough. Over 4 days, up to three tugboats worked to pull the ship off without success. Ultimately shifting the cargo to one side and getting the International Joint Commission – St. Lawrence River Board to temporarily raise the river by a foot (by reducing flow through the downriver dam) freed the boat.

overhead view using our drone

Yesterday a few of our senior divers drifted through the area on the southern side of the southern lock wall. Although there was no obvious wall or berm “wound”, there was gravel and larger rocks strewn everywhere, old lock bollards were surrounded by rocky debris, and the divers found what was probably one of the ship’s sacrificial anodes (hahaha, as if I know anything about sacrificial anodes… but my divers had heard of them and a quick Google search taught me a lot!).

Chem Norma Anode

Here’s what they found. If you come across it, kindly leave it there!

We’ll be out again soon to evaluate this area further.

In the meantime,  now that all the sludge and mess from the working tugboats has cleared, river conditions are pretty typical for this time of year – moderate current, 10-foot visibility, 13C/57F water temp.