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).

Large Ballard lock closed for annual maintenance, tours are sold out

Just like every year, the Army Corps of Engineers has closed and emptied the large lock at the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks for annual maintenance. Crews will scrape barnacles off the walls and check all the mechanical systems.

It’s always fascinating to see what lies 55-feet down — both in the lock and inside the chambers that feed it. However, the VIP tours, which begin today, have sold out. Back in 2009, we tagged along with the Army Corps and took some photos and videos.

A post shared by Frank Fujimoto (@frankfujimoto) on

The money raised from the tours goes toward the upcoming Fish Ladder Education Center project, which begins later this fall.

Crews will be working on the large lock through Nov. 22nd. Until then, all marine traffic is routed through the small lock.

Art opening at Ballard Locks on Thursday

The Ballard Locks will host an art opening at the administration building this Thursday. As part of the Ballard Night Out every third Thursday of the month, the exhibit will include a number of pieces inspired by the Centennial of the Ballard Locks. The art show will be on August 17 from 6 to 8 pm.

There will be light refreshments and activities for kids, and live music from the ukulele group STRUM.

For more information, call 206-783-7059.

King County Council recognizes Ballard Locks Centennial

The Metropolitan King County Council celebrated the Ballard Locks’ 100th anniversary this week, issuing a nostalgic statement of recognition (full statement is below).

“The Ballard Locks are a local treasure for residents, visitors and school classes,” Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles said in statement. “History and function come together at the Locks to create an experience that can include walking through the surrounding botanical gardens, learning about the locks as an essential pathway for migratory salmon and enjoying the fish ladder viewing room, or touring the vital infrastructure.”

There are a number of upcoming events to celebrate the centennial, including a boat parade on the 9th of July.

Here is the recognition statement, posted on the King County Council’s website.


WHEREAS, Maj. Hiram M. Chittenden found the need for a masonry lock in 1907, with federal funds allocated in 1910; and

WHEREAS, 63 years before its completion, Thomas Mercer first proposed the unique idea of creating a connection where fresh and salt water meet in Seattle; and

WHEREAS, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers oversaw the construction of the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks and has managed its operation to this day; and

WHEREAS, on July 4th, 1917, more than half the City of Seattle’s population lined the shores and watched as more than 200 boats paraded through the cuts and Lake Union into Lake Washington;

WHEREAS, the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, also known as the Ballard Locks, has provided a critical passage for commerce and recreation for the people of Seattle and King County for 100 years; and

WHEREAS, with nearly 50,000 vessels per year, the Ballard Locks move more traffic than any other in the United States; and

WHEREAS, the Ballard Locks’ fish ladder provides an invaluable educational experience for visiting school children; and

WHEREAS, the Ballard Locks are a designated National Historic Site and attract more than one million visitors per year; and

WHEREAS, HistoryLink and over 30 historical museums and societies lining the waterways of King County have brought these events to life for the people of Washington State; and

WHEREAS, there will be a centennial commemoration at the Ballard Locks on July 4th, 2017, at 10:00 a.m.;

NOW, THEREFORE, we, the Metropolitan King County Council, recognize the


upon its centennial for its continuing significance and service to the people of Seattle and King County.

Photo: Representatives from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the Queen Anne Historical Society with members after the Council recognized the Centennial of the Ballard Locks

Throwback Thursday: Lake Washington Ship Canal is 100 years old

The Lake Washington Ship Canal is nearly 100 years old; its opening celebration was July 4, 1917. But the idea to connect the Puget Sound to Lake Washington was proposed 63 years prior by Thomas Mercer (1813-1898).

According to, it took five decades to decide where to build it and how to pay for it. When Hiram M. Chittenden took over the Seattle District of the Army Corps of Engineers in 1906, the plans were made and federal funding was secured.

Chittenden’s plan included two cuts; the Fremont Cut between Salmon Bay and Lake Union, and the Montlake Cut between Lake Union and Lake Washington. And, of course, the locks, now sharing his name.

“The canal’s construction lowered the water level of Lake Washington by nine feet and raised that of Salmon Bay behind the locks, changing it from a tidal inlet to a freshwater reservoir,” writes David B. Williams for History Link.

With many years of negotiations with community members, Ballard industries and city planners, in 1910, Congress passed a River and Harbor Act that included a $2,275,000 appropriation to build the locks.

The work on the locks started in 1911; the first task of which was to build a cofferdam around the site of the locks. A massive undertaking, “crews dredged 245,000 cubic yards of sediment to create a lock pit, then pumped the water out and began building a 65-foot-high wooden trestle down the center of the pit to support a supply train used throughout the project,” Williams writes.

The concrete was poured in 1913-1914, then the gates were installed a year later, and it was time to connect freshwater to saltwater. On February 2, 1916, it was tested for the first time; the first boat to go through the locks was the Orcas, a tender operated by the Corps.

The grand opening of the locks was on July 4, 1917. According to Williams, the P-I reported that more than half the city’s population lined the shores.

Click here for the full history of the Ship Canal and locks construction from History Link.


Construction of Lake Washington Ship Canal, Seattle, 1912, Photo by A. Curtis, Courtesy UW Special Collections

Hiram M. Chittenden Locks under construction, 1915 Courtesy National Archives

Water gushes from Lake Union into Montlake Cut, Seattle, August 25, 1916 Courtesy MOHAI