The Rideau Canal is the oldest continually-running canal in North America, and a $100 million dollar cash injection by the federal government is intended to keep it that way.
A $19 million project for the Jones Falls Locks got underway about a month ago.
Parks Canada project engineer Jamie Dickey says the work at the Jones Falls Lock Station is expected to take three years.
“We were looking at the projects that have gone on here in the past,” Dickey said, “and this is the largest infrastructure project on the canal since it was built.”
WATCH: Rideau Canal gets ready to open (May, 2018)
In all, a total of four locks at Jones Falls and a timber bridge will be rejuvenated when the work is done.
Dickey says the timber bridge for pedestrians is a complete overhaul.
“We’re basically replacing the whole structure,” Dickey said. “It’s reached its life span. We’re doing that in the first year.”
READ MORE: Jones Falls timber bridge to be replaced
Two locks will also be worked on this winter: lock 39 will be completed and work will also begin on lock 40.
The infrastructure project is being carried out in the off season through the winter, so it won’t interfere with the boating season on the canal, a Unesco World Heritage Site.
Most of the work done to date, meanwhile, has been preparatory.
A combination of gravel and sheet pile coffer dams are being built to redirect water and keep locks dry while masonry work is taking place. A type of tarp tent is also being built around the lock, while concrete and limestone blocks are repaired or replaced.
The tents are climate- and humidity-controlled to ensure the grout and mortar dries and sets properly, says Dickey.
“If it’s too cold, it won’t cure,” Dickey said. “You won’t get a good product or a good quality product, so you have to keep it in a certain temperature range and humidity.”
All the work at the Jones Falls Lock station is expected to be complete by the spring of 2021.