Ballard Locks awarded $10.5m to replace 100-year-old large lock gates

The Ballard Locks are about to get a major upgrade. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have awarded $10.5 million to the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks to replace the original large lock chamber’s 100-year-old gates.

The massive project will replace the original valves — known as the Stoney Gate Valves — which were the latest technology when the Panama Canal was constructed, in 1910. The same system made its way to the construction of the Ballard Locks. The Panama Canal gate valves, however, were replaced several years ago.

The work will happen in stages, which will mean 45-day closures of the large locks. The first closure is scheduled for late 2019, from October 12 to November 30. The subsequent closures will happen in February – April and October – November of 2020, and again in February of 2021. The closures will  impact commercial vessels, but the work must be done, says operations manager Jon Hofstra.

“The valves have been well maintained over the last 100 years,” Hofstra said in a statement. “Although, it’s time. They’re past the life expectancy of this type of equipment and the salt-water environment has taken its toll as well.”

This year’s regular annual lock maintenance closure is scheduled for October 29 – November 21. The maintenance will include the replacement of the large lock center gate bushings and gudgeon pin — used to support the weight of the gates, allowing them to rotate open and closed.

Photo from Hiram M. Chittenden Locks – Ballard Locks Facebook page

Tall ships Hawaiian Chieftain and Lady Washington to pass through Locks Thursday

If you missed the tall ships last week, you now have a second chance to watch the Lady Washington and Hawaiian Chieftain pass through the Ballard Locks on Thursday, Sept. 13. The historic ships have been in Lake Washington since the 7th, offering tours and sails to the public. On Thursday they’ll be leaving Seattle, bound for Olympia.

While they can’t give us an exact time that they’ll be passing through the Locks, Zachary Stocks from Historical Seaport tells My Ballard it should be before lunchtime.

Another way to track the boats, if you’re so inclined, is to look for them on, which is a real-time map of registered vessels. (Zoom in on Seattle and you may be able to spot them.)

Photo by Rick Horn/Historical Seaport


Cruise ship heads through the Locks

Updated: The Star Legend made history today by becoming the largest cruise ship to ever navigate the Ballard Locks and the Ship Canal.

A crowd gathered to watch the big event, along with media helicopters and a KING 5 drone:

Here’s the perspective from on the ship:

Then it headed to the Ballard Bridge, where the ship exceeded the height of the bridge itself:

A view from the bridge:

And a shoreline perspective:

It was quite the sight, and it also generated lots of free publicity — another successful marketing campaign at Ballard’s favorite tourist attraction.

(First bridge photo by Adrienne Erickson on Twitter. Second by Meghan Walker. Third by Annie on Twitter. Other photos above from Windstar Cruises.)

Earlier: The largest cruise ship to ever traverse the Ballard Locks will make the journey around 1 p.m. and again between 6 and 7 p.m. today (Wednesday).

The 440-foot-long Star Legend carries 212 passengers, and it’s taking a side-trip through the Ship Canal as it heads to Alaska. The ship will have 7.5 feet of clearance on each side in the Locks.

The cruise ship will then go under the Ballard Bridge around 2 p.m. and the Fremont Bridge a short time later. It takes a spin around Lake Union, crosses back under the Ballard Bridge at approximately 6 or 6:30 p.m. and then heads back out of the Locks between 6 and 7 p.m. Then it will be visible off Shilshole as begins its journey to Alaska.

The Star Legend is run by Seattle-based Windstar Cruises.

Giant cow goes through the Locks

You don’t see this every day. It pains us to post this because it’s a publicity stunt, but it was a particularly effective one, to say the least.

Bessie the giant inflatable Holstein cow cruised through the Locks and the Ship Canal, generating lots of “earned media” for the Dairy Farmers of Washington. After all, why buy advertising when you can get blog posts like this for free?

But it was a sight. Lucas even made this video:

And Bessie even cruised Elliott Bay, pushed by a tug:

Don’t you want to drink more milk?

Schedule is out for Summer Concerts at Locks

The initial schedule has been released for the free summer concert series at the Carl S. English Garden at the Ballard Locks, beginning the weekend of June 2nd.

The lineup shows a diverse list of local musicians with an emphasis on big band and jazz. While there is no charge for the concerts — and the musicians play pro bono — donations are accepted. The schedule may change, so the Locks asks that you check the website before you make plans.

Concerts run every Saturday and Sunday, beginning at 2 p.m., throughout the summer.

Park at the Ballard Locks will close due to government shutdown

Tuesday update: This morning the Army Corps said the park is open.

Update: Trump has signed a bill to reopen the government, so the shutdown is over.

Earlier: While the Ballard Locks continue to operate, the Army Corps of Engineers says the park grounds will be closed beginning tomorrow — until funding is restored.

That means cyclists and walkers won’t have the ability or access or go through the park.

Vessels are still able to traverse through the Locks, but the Army Corps says “staffing limitations may cause longer locking times.”

This afternoon the U.S. Senate passed a bill to end the shutdown, and the House is expected to vote later today — so it’s likely the shutdown will end tomorrow.

Briefs: Locks, Salmon, Sushi, Elks, Lagunitas

We have a few news tidbits to share, beginning with the Ballard Locks. (Tilt-shift photo above is from the US Army Corps of Engineers on Facebook).

BALLARD LOCKS: The Seattle Times has put together a good in-depth look at why the Locks needs $30 million to $60 million in major repairs and upgrades. (Here’s our earlier story).

FEED THE SALMON: Seattle Parks is looking for volunteers who can help feed the salmon (baby salmon!) at Carkeek Park on a weekly basis.

BALLARD SUSHI: The chef of Shiku Sushi in Ballard, JP Kim, is bringing sushi to Magnolia. He bought Oliver’s Twist to turn it into a sushi restaurant, opening in February, according to Seattle Mag. Don’t worry Shiku fans, Kim will remain in Ballard.

ELKS SCHOLARSHIPS: The Ballard Elks Lodge is offering vocational scholarships for the first time: two students graduating high school (or getting their GED) this year will be awarded $1,000 or more. Interested? Here are the details.

LAGUNITAS GRANTS: Lagunitas Brewing Company plans to award grants up to $5,000 for qualifying nonprofit organizations. Want to apply? Learn more right here.

As always, if you have news, please email us at If you have an upcoming event, submit it to our Ballard events calendar.

Briefs: Market St. assault, Bitter Lake real estate, KBFG, Ballard Locks and more

A few quick stories and links from around the neighborhood…

STABBING ON MARKET: Police and medics rushed to 2220 Market St. just after 3 p.m. Sunday for an assault with weapon call. “Two men had a skirmish, and one stabbed the other. The injured man was treated and the stabber was arrested,” explains My Ballard reader Andrea who was there.

BITTER LAKE HOMES: Redfin compiled a list of the top 25 most competitive real estate neighborhoods in the US, and while Ballard wasn’t on the list, Lower Queen Anne was #13, Wallingford was #22 and Bitter Lake was listed at #18. Bitter Lake homes are selling for an average of 105% of list in 7 days time.

KBFG IN THE NYT: Did you see community radio station KBFG and Ballard High School in the New York Times over the weekend?!

BALLARD LOCKS: Tomorrow (Tuesday) a city council committee will hear a presentation on the “Economic Impact of the Ballard Locks.” As we’ve reported, the Locks are in need of federal funds. The presentation is scheduled for 10:25-55 a.m. in the Council Chambers City Hall, 600 4th Avenue. (Thanks West Seattle Blog for the tip!)

VETERANS SERVICES: The Ballard Library helped 70 veterans who needed housing and other resources last year, and its next drop-in event for veterans in need is this Tuesday from 10 a.m. to noon. Another drop-in is scheduled for the same time on Jan. 23rd.

36TH DISTRICT: We did not attend Saturday’s 36th District town hall on Queen Anne, but the Queen Anne News was there and posted this report.

Should the Ballard Locks charge a toll?

Last week our state’s top lawmakers asked the Trump Administration for funding for “urgent” repairs to the Ballard Locks.

The Seattle Times editorial board followed up with an opinion piece that “the federal government needs to find funding to maintain and upgrade the Ballard Locks and ensure passage to the Lake Washington Ship Canal remains safe and reliable.”

Then the Times published a letter from one of its readers that asks: why is it still free for boats to pass through the Locks?

Reader Kenneth Torp suggested charging a toll, not for commercial boats or kayaks, but for pleasure craft. “Most of the vessels that transit the Locks are pleasure craft — yachts and power boats,” he writes. “Their owners are not on food stamps.”

It’s currently free to travel through the Locks.

Given all the recent tolls in our area — I-405, the 520 bridge and the Highway 99 tunnel when it opens in 2019 — what do you think of the idea to toll non-commercial boats at the Ballard Locks?

Lawmakers urge Trump administration to fund ‘critical upgrades’ to Ballard Locks

The Ballard Locks are in desperate need of repairs and urgently need federal funds, according to a letter written by our state’s top lawmakers to the Trump administration today.

An analysis of the locks by the Army Corps “found that many lock and dam components are in poor or failing condition,” the letter (.pdf) explains. “An extended, unplanned closure of the ship canal and locks could have significant negative impacts for the more than 200 businesses that rely upon this project, endanger the lives of those living and working in the Puget Sound region, and damage critical infrastructure.”

The federally-funded Army Corps of Engineers oversees the Ballard Locks.

U.S. Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell joined Reps. Pramila Jayapal, Adam Smith, Rick Larsen, Dave Reichert, Suzan DelBene, Denny Heck, and Derek Kilmer in writing the letter to Ryan Fisher, the Acting Assistant Secretary of the Army.

“We respectfully request that you allocate funding through the Army Corps’ Fiscal Year 2018 Work Plan and the President’s Fiscal Year 2019 Budget Request to replace the stoney gate filling culvert valves and continue work on necessary repairs and upgrades of the Lake Washington Ship Canal and Hiram M. Chittenden Locks,” the letter explains. “This project is vital to the economy, public safety, and environment in Puget Sound.”

The Hiram M. Chittenden Locks turned 100 years old earlier this year.

(Photo: Engineers inspecting the large lock in November).