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Navigating and living on the waterways of Continental Europe and news of canal developments.
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TOPIC: Saint-Vite écluse

Saint-Vite écluse 13 Nov 2020 21:25 #119705

  • David Edwards-May
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I agree with Nicholas that Saint-Vite is a good step forwards, but it is clear to all, and especially to the mayor of Saint-Vite Daniel Borie, that this investment only makes sense once a solution is in place to pass the dam at Fumel. The fact that the bed is rocky makes providing a channel more expensive than conventional dredging, but in practice a little blasting goes a long way. A channel had to be cut in the rock downstream of the old lock at Mercuès in 1990, so it's already been done. The problem of having to create new channels is the result of hydropower plant owners having been given the right to demolish certain weirs (chaussées) to increase their power production. It was also the case downstream of Villeneuve dam. That is the legacy that we have to deal with. Let's keep chipping away, and pressing the elected representatives throughout the Lot valley. Parce qu'elle le vaut bien !
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Saint-Vite écluse 21 Oct 2020 11:30 #119154

  • Nicholas Bostock
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I am sorry that Pat's summary of progress on the restoration of the Lot to navigation is so negative. The restoration of St-Vite Lock is a huge step forward and will accelerate plans to build a new lock at Fumel. That only leaves Luzech before all three current lengths are joined, opening up over 200 km of the river. If it can be done at Villeneuve & Castelmoron, it can be done here! It is undoubtedly the most attractive river in France, with spectacular scenery and easy cruising. With more of the river connected it will surely generate much more hire boat traffic, particularly with seeing them return to the Lower Lot. His comment about the river condition below St-Vite Lock was not a problem for me with Hoop op Zegen (22 x 4.2m and drawing 1.1m). It is well buoyed and there is sufficient depth, though the current while I was there was a problem when mooring to the pontoon and winding due to it being allowed to run through the lock chamber. The Garonne crossing is certainly a challenge and pilotage is essential. But it is perfectly safe in the right conditions, and surely VNF will be capable of organizing it at a suitable charge.
Nick Bostock
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Saint-Vite écluse 21 Oct 2020 10:00 #119151

  • Pat Blanchard
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I would just comment further that if the budget was 3m€ for a completion in November 2020, then since the work is nowhere near complete, one would now expect the budget to be exceeded!

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Saint-Vite écluse 21 Oct 2020 09:45 #119150

  • Pat Blanchard
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It is, of course, good that 3m€ is being spent on the lower Lot, re-opening the lock at Saint-Vite. It is one element in a complex problem, a problem of how to make fully real the plans and dreams from thirty years ago . . . ref: French Waterways information page

An ambitious and imaginative plan, to reopen navigation from the Garonne upstream to Cahors and well beyond, it is highly doubtful that the 1985-90 scheme is in any way fully achievable now, but parts may be, should be.

The reverse side of the St-Vite coin is that 3m€ is being invested to open up about 3km of further navigation, without any moorings viable at Fumel, for a short round-trip and then back through the lock. Even getting to St-Vite is problematic, because the last 2-3km is a narrow, shallow channel within the river. The channel is difficult to enlarge further, the ground conditions being rock. One answer might be to raise the barrage at Les Ondes, the next downstream from St-Vite.

Decisions to spend money and effort here, as opposed to there, are always difficult. Even more so when money to invest in the more far-flung, less used, navigable waterways is in very short supply.

The St-Vite money could arguably be better spent (to greater immediate benefit) elsewhere. For example, on the Garonne Crossing, where promises about limited reinstatement (a couple of weeks in Spring and Autumn) are viewed very sceptically locally. Frankly, it is doubted that VNF has the commitment to do anything. (Crossing navigation responsibility has now devolved back to VNF from the Department).

Fumel is a huge problem, against which St Vite is relatively straightforward. All the ground adjoining, and the river bed, is heavy metal contaminated. Any kind of digging (e.g. to amend the barrage and install an écluse) will have serious consequences. A number of alternative suggestions have been put forward, including using a large travel-lift, possibly one with a water bath à la Arzviller. Beyond that, is an excellent section of river through Puy l’Eveque, with fully restored locks. Unfortunately, that then brings us to another extremely difficult problem, at Luzech . . .
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Saint-Vite écluse 21 Oct 2020 08:15 #119145

  • Pat Blanchard
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Taken on Monday afternoon 19 Oct, comments to follow
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