November 2, 2017
By Ed Byrne
The Brillion News
WRIGHTSTOWN – The restoration of navigation on the Fox River from Green Bay to Lake Winnebago could have a significant economic impact on northeast Wisconsin, according to a study conducted by the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh.
According to the study, the Fox River Lock System could generate as much as $290 million in total economic output over a 10-year period and generate as many as 6,300 additional jobs.
The study also shows that a fully operational lock system could generate $99 million in additional business investment over the same time period. The study was conducted by Dr. David Fuller of the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh economics department.
“The last ten years of lock restoration and resulting riverside development has been significant,” Fuller said. “The most important impact is the potential future value of the system.”
From 2005-2015 the Fox River Navigational System Authority (FRNSA) restored 16 of the 17 locks on the system at an investment of $14.5 million.
The lock at Rapide Croche, a quarter mile upstream from the Wrightstown village limits, remains closed as a physical barrier to prevent invasive aquatic species from the Great Lakes getting to Lake Winnebago.
In early September of 2015, the state Department of Natural Resources requested closing the Menasha lock to prevent the round goby, a detrimental invasive species of fish, from entering Lake Winnebago. Currently the river is navigable from Menasha to Kaukauna; then from Wrightstown north to the bay of Green Bay.
“Despite the closure of Menasha, we have already seen significant riverfront developments in Appleton and the De Pere area,” said Dr. Tim Rose, chairman of the FRNSA, “The locks are fully functional now, but being able to use all the locks on the river would have an enormous economic effect on the region.”
Prior to the closure of the Menasha lock, the FRNSA records show that 21,692 boat passengers went through the lock system.
In 2016, 18,337 passengers went through the lock system. In 2017, 18,932 passengers went through the locks and locks at Combined Locks and Little Chute were in operation.
“Menasha and De Pere are historically our busiest locks, but the potential for increased traffic through the system is evident,” Rose said.
The economic impact study measured four specific scenarios and the impact each would have over a 10-year time period.
The first scenario assumes both the Menasha lock and the Rapide Croche lock remain closed. Under this scenario, the impact is projected at $42.9 million in additional total output; $26 million in additional labor income; 939 additional jobs; and $14.6 million in additional business investment over 10 years.
The second scenario assumes the Menasha lock is open and a boat transfer station is built at the Rapide Croche lock. The FRNSA board of directors has approved a proposal to build a boat transfer/cleaning station at the Rapide Croche lock to enable navigation and continue to prevent the spread of invasive species. Under this scenario, the impact is projected at $210 million in additional total output; $127.7 million in additional labor income; 4,595 additional jobs; and $71.8 million in additional business investment over 10 years.
This second scenario would require FRNSA and the DNR to agree on a solution to prevent invasive species from entering Lake Winnebago and the Fox River at both the Rapide Croche barrier and the Menasha Lock.
“Clearly, any solution will take some time to develop and implement and we are working toward this goal,” Rose said.
The third scenario assumes the Menasha lock remains closed and a boat transfer station is built at the Rapide Croche lock. Under this scenario, the impact is projected at $167.7 million in additional total output; $102 million in additional labor income; 3,669 additional jobs; and $57.3 million in additional business investment over 10 years.
Please see the complete story in the November 2, 2017 edition of The Brillion News.