Senators: “The Ballard Locks are not just symbolic of our region’s rich maritime history, but a century later, they are vital to the economy, public safety, environment, and more in Puget Sound.”
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Sens. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) commemorated the forthcoming 100th anniversary of the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, more commonly known as the Ballard Locks, with remarks for the Senate record recognizing the historical and environmental significance of the locks and the their integral role in growing the Puget Sound economy and providing critical public safety functions. According to a recently released economic impacts study, the Ballard Locks support $1.2 billion in total lock-related economic activity, more than 3,000 full-time jobs, and generate an additional $40 million in economic activity per year as one of the region’s top tourist attractions. Recognizing the Ballard Locks’ regional importance, the Senators have consistently fought for increased investments to operate, maintain, and restore the Ballard Locks. The locks officially opened for vessel traffic on July 4, 1917.
Read the Senators’ remarks submitted for the record here and below.
Commemorating the One Hundredth Anniversary of the Ballard Locks in Washington state
Mrs. MURRAY. M. President, I rise today with my colleague Senator Cantwell to commemorate the one hundredth anniversary of the construction and operation of the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, more commonly known in Washington state as the Ballard Locks. The Ballard Locks are not just symbolic of our region’s rich maritime history, but a century later, they remain vital to the economy, public safety, environment, and more in Puget Sound.
As early as the 1850s, settlers in Puget Sound recognized the benefits of connecting the region’s fresh water lakes to the salt water of Puget Sound. Shortly thereafter, the U.S. Navy expressed interest. Ultimately, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Army Corps) initiated planning for the locks in the late 1890s and work began in earnest under Hiram M. Chittenden, the Seattle District Engineer for the Army Corps from April 1906 to September 1908. Construction began in 1911 after the locks received approval from Congress and the Ballard Locks were formally opened for vessel traffic on July 4, 1917.
The Ballard Locks enable commercial and recreational vessels to travel to the docks, shipyards, warehouses, maintenance and repair facilities, and marinas in the region’s fresh water lakes while also reducing maintenance costs and prolonging vessel life in the fresh water environment. The importance of the locks is underscored by their annual usage. Each year, the Ballard Locks support 45,000 vessel transits and 14,000 lockage counts – which makes them the busiest lock in the United States in overall vessel traffic. If you only count commercial vessels from fishing fleets to ocean-going freight shippers and more, the Ballard Locks are the twelfth busiest in the nation.
Ms. CANTWELL. M. President, I join my colleague Senator Murray in commemorating the Ballard Locks’ one hundredth anniversary. As our constituents in Washington state know, these locks are an integral part of our regional economy. The safe and efficient operation of the Ballard Locks supports $1.2 billion in total lock-related economic activity, more than 3,000 full-time jobs, and more than 1 million tons of freight. With over 1.3 million visitors a year to see the locks and the fish ladder and visit the Carl S. English, Jr. Botanical Gardens, the Ballard Locks are one of the region’s top tourist attractions generating another $40 million in economic activity per year.
The Ballard Locks provide critical public safety and environmental functions, maintaining the water level of Lake Washington and Lake Union and preventing salt water intrusion from Puget Sound into these fresh water lakes. The locks support two floating highway bridges – Interstate-90 and State Route-520, the water and sewer systems that serve Mercer Island residents, and approximately 75 miles of developed commercial, municipal, and residential shoreline. It also allows for emergency response by the Seattle Fire Department, Seattle Harbor Patrol, King County Sheriff, and U.S. Coast Guard. The facilities spillway and fish ladder serve as a link for salmon and steelhead migrating from the ocean upstream to fresh water spawning grounds, which is important to fulfilling federal tribal treaty responsibilities.
Ms. MURRAY. M. President, like other infrastructure across Washington state and the nation, the Ballard Locks are showing their age. Senator Cantwell and I commend the Army Corps for its work to restore and modernize the locks, and we are doing our part in Congress to support these efforts. Year after year, we work to help presidential administrations understand the critical importance of the Army Corps’ work and we make sure budgets actually reflect that need. We stand ready to continue to work with our partners in Puget Sound to complete the necessary repairs and upgrades of the Ballard Locks, as our regional economy and the more than 200 businesses that rely upon the locks cannot afford an extended, unplanned closure.
Ms. CANTWELL, M. President, together Senator Murray and I will continue to advocate for this critical infrastructure, working to ensure our colleagues and the administration understand the importance of the waterways and navigation systems in the Pacific Northwest. Investing in our water infrastructure supports jobs, economic security, and healthy communities. Senator Murray and I are proud to fight for the investments the Army Corps needs to operate, maintain, and restore the Ballard Locks.