Funding Secured for Kaukauna's Veterans Memorial Bridge

The Fox River Navigation System Authority (FRNSA) in a press release is reporting that funds to repair the Kaukauna Veterans Memorial Bridge to operational status have been secured. The U.S. Coast Guard notified the City of Kaukauna that the bridge, over the Fox River Navigation Channel, must be operational by May 1, 2021.

Clearance is limited without lifting the bridge.
Photo by J.R. Manning for Bridge and Landmark Hunter sites.

Because everything else about the bridge, except the lift mechanism is in good shape, there are no federal dollars available for the repairs. Funds were included in the current State of Wisconsin budget but were struck from the budget by Governor Tony Evers, using the governor's line item veto. In his budget memo, Governor Evers stated, "I am vetoing these sections as I object to the placement of the project in the budget, particularly given the lack of additional funding provided to ensure that this earmark does not result in a delay for other needed repairs." (Source: Veto Message, Office of Tony Evers, page 64.)

The Fox River Navigation System Authority (FRNSA) says that it worked with city officials and funding was secured through a "newly formed $75 million Multimodal Local Supplement grant program."

The lock system in the Lower Fox River was originally built in the 19th century to allow river traffic from Lake Winnebago to the Green Bay and Lake Michigan. (The Upper Fox River was also part of the locks system that allowed river traffic from the Wisconsin River in Portage, Wisconsin to Lake Winnebago. All but one of those locks are now closed and the canal to the Wisconsin River is sealed. The system allowed water traffic between the Great Lakes and the Gulf of Mexico.)

16 of the 17 locks of the Lower Fox River were restored between 2005-2015 with an investment of $14.5 million and is operated by FRNSA. It is one of the only fully restored, hand-operated lock systems in the United States. Currently, the Menasha Lock, at the upper end of the lower Fox River, is closed to prevent the invasive Round Goby from getting into Lake Winnebago Ecosystem and the Upper Fox River. (See Menasha Lock Closed, Invasive Species Found in Fox River in the Landmark Hunter news feed.) The lock at Rapide Croche ("Eighth Rapids") was sealed in 1988 to prevent invasive species from entering the Fox River and Lake Winnebago ecosystems.

The Lower Fox drops 180 feet between the head of the river in Lake Winnebago and the mouth at Green Bay. The rapids attracted millers and paper makers to the Fox River Valley in mid 19th Century. Eventually, the Lower Fox River was dammed to take advantage of the potential energy.

After the Portage Canal was opened to connect the upper Fox River to the Wisconsin River, it was possible to go from the Green Bay to the Gulf of Mexico.


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