Willamette Falls Locks Task Force 2016

The Willamette Falls Locks connect the upper and lower sections of the Willamette River providing the only safe passage for recreational and commercial boats around the forty-foot falls. Operated by the Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), the Willamette Locks struggles to stay open due to steep operational costs and inconsistent funding. Oregon Solutions has been involved in convening a team of government, civic, and private groups to find funding to operate and repair the historic lock system.

As of December 2011, the USACE changed the status of the Willamette Falls Locks from a “caretaker status” to a “non-operational status.” The locks were operated previously at least once per month for maintenance, but will not operate until resources have been found to complete necessary repairs to the 138-year-old facility.

Note that a subsequent project flowed from the task force’s work in 2018. You can learn about that project at our webpage for the 2018 Willamette Falls Locks Commission.


Problem Statement

The Willamette Falls Locks is the oldest multi-chambered canal and navigation lock system in the country, serving recreational, commercial, and industrial boat traffic. In 2005, the locks lost federal funding and required significant repair. Closure of the locks divides the Willamette River in two, cutting off an artery of river-based tourism and commercial activity into the Willamette Valley.


Oregon Solutions brought together more than twenty public, private, and civic partners to seek state and federal funding to restore the locks as a critical cultural and historic site and commercial water navigation system. The project helped funnel more than $2 million towards the completion of an engineering inspection and repairs upgrade.


  • Seek local, state, and federal funding to keep locks operational
  • Complete inspection and repair of lock gates system
  • Establish a heritage area near the Willamette Falls
  • Develop a local operating authority
  • Promote the Willamette Locks as a historic and cultural site
  • Maintain the Willamette Locks as a critical water transportation artery


  • Achieved an open and operational lock system in 2010
  • Funneled over $2 million in stimulus funds to complete inspection and repairs in 2009

Additional Resources

Willamette Falls Heritage Foundation