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Happy 100th birthday, Ballard Locks. Hope you get the repairs you wished for

caption: The Ballard Locks link Puget Sound with Lake Washington and Lake Union.
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The Ballard Locks link Puget Sound with Lake Washington and Lake Union.
KUOW Photo/Angela Nhi Nguyen

This year marks the 100th anniversary for the Ballard Locks and a new report says its age is showing. It faces a repair bill that could be from $30 million to $60 million.

That money would be needed from the federal government so it can continue working properly.

The facility is known for its viewing area of salmon that swim the ladder, returning from Puget Sound. And of course, the locks link the sound with Lake Union and Lake Washington. According to the study, public safety and fish life are at risk without the federal money for repairs.

Charlie Costanzo is with the American Waterways Operators, a group that advocates for sea freight transportation and aims to ensure its economic standing.

“If this water way is the home of the North Pacific fishing fleet, then the Ballard Locks are the garage door,” Costanzo said. “Behind this garage door is $1.2 billion in gross business sales.”

The study said the Ballard Locks are the busiest in the nation in overall vessel traffic. Some of that traffic is connected to the fishing industry.

Chris Woodley is the executive director of the Groundfish Forum. They’re a trade association that represents some fishing companies.

“The Ballard Locks are truly the backbone of the fishing industry.” Woodley said. “I like Charlie’s analogy of the garage door. I’d also call it the starting line and the finish line.”

“It is all urgent but it can’t get done immediately,” Costanzo said. “And we’re hoping to have sort of a six to 10 year work plan to cross everything off the list.”

Washington’s two senators said they’ll push for more federal funding for the repair work.

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