FOX VALLEY, Wis. (WBAY) - In the course of 10 years, the Fox River Locks could have a nearly $300-million economic impact on the region. That's according to the findings of a study released by the Fox River Navigational System Authority.
Since 2005, more than $14 million has been spent to restore the 17 locks that make up the Fox River locks system. It's an investment, long term, that could have a large impact on Northeast Wisconsin.
"If you open both the lock at Menasha and the lock at Rapide Croche, including the visitors center it's a potential $31million per year in additional economic activity," says David Fuller.
Fuller, from UW-Oshkosh, conducted the study for the Fox River Navigational System Authority. He looked at the locks as infrastructure and the impact they could have from 2018 to 2028 to reach that $290 million projection.
But as Fuller noted, all 17 of the locks need to be opened to see that success.
A concrete barrier is blocking the lock at Rapid Croche, south of Wrightstown. It, along with the lock in Menasha, are both closed to keep invasive species out of the Lower Fox River and Lake Winnebago.
With $290 million of economic impact at stake, the navigational authority is determined to make both locks operational.
Tim Rose is the chairman of the navigational system. He says, "As far as the Menasha Lock is concerned, we're dealing with the DNR and we're looking at some possibilities and way to inhibit invasive species from going through the locks. We'd take boats from contaminated water in the river and put them in clean water beyond the Croche and that's the goal."
And because the lock system isn't just about recreational boating, the navigational authority is also committed to building a visitor's center at the Appleton lock off of Lawe Street to help reach its full economic potential.
Rose adds, "Our goal is not to give something back, our goal is to give something forward to make sure that the future people who live in the valley has an opportunity to use the locks and see the locks and appreciate the history of the locks."