Visitor Center plans cancelled; round goby research continues

Posted on Aug 27, 2020 by

This is an update on action taken at the board of directors’ recent meeting.

The board of directors of the Fox River Navigational System Authority (FRNSA) voted to stop the development of a visitor center slated for construction at lock three located near Appleton’s Lawe Street. Plans had called for developing an interpretive center chronicling the history of the lock system in a multi-use building adjacent to the lock. The unanimous vote was taken at the board’s monthly meeting August 25, 2020.

Leaders of FRNSA cited the economic uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus pandemic as the catalyst for suspending development plans.

“Interpretive centers and museums across the country are either shut down or operating on reduced hours due to the pandemic,” said Jeremy Cords, CEO of FRNSA. “It is not responsible to invest substantial sums of money into this development when we are facing economic uncertainty and prolonged social distancing.” The visitor center had been proposed as a major destination for school and tour groups. 

Cords and other board members also reaffirmed the organization’s commitment to completing research necessary to re-open the closed Menasha lock. The authority is currently conducting research on the effects of water velocity and an electronic barrier on the life cycle of the invasive round goby. The research is expected to affirm that an electronic barrier installed at the Menasha lock will be effective in preventing the round goby from entering the Lake Winnebago watershed through the Menasha lock. The total cost of this research project is estimated at $120,000. 

“Our first responsibility is to maintain access to the lock system,” Cords said. “We are passionate about sharing the living history of the lock system with state residents and with maintaining the environmental beauty of the Fox River by keeping the locks open and functioning.”             

Of the 17 locks on the lower Fox River, all have been restored and are in working order. Currently, nine of the locks are open for approximately 25 miles of navigation on the river.  The five Kaukauna locks are expected to open in 2021 when repairs to the Veterans Memorial lift Bridge in downtown Kaukauna are complete. The Menasha lock was closed in 2015 by request of the Wisconsin DNR to prevent the round goby from reaching Lake Winnebago through the lock.

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