By Robert Neel, Reporter
The historic Lock and Dam on the Trinity River near SH 7 is a popular location to fish, but it can also be a dangerous place. Water around the remains of the old Lock and Dam, especially thru the chute, can become extremely swift and turbulent. Two boats have capsized in the chute over the last two years, Game Warden Zak Benge said in a Houston County Courier interview.
He reported other injuries such as broken hands and crushed fingers as boats hit the walls or boaters get tangled in ropes used to tie off.
Individuals fishing on top of the walls on each side of the chute, and accessing the inside of one wall, also concerned him.
"This area is a major accident waiting to happen," Benge said.
Benge presented suggestions for restricting access to parts of the Lock and Dam to the Houston County Commissioners Court on Aug. 12.
He would like to see access to the walls on each side of the chute restricted along with restricted boat and vessel traffic in the chute.
"I have no desire to infringe on people's right to fish, but a proactive approach to preventing serious accidents is needed," Benge pointed out.
The Commissioners tabled the matter for future discussion because of the joint ownership of the structure with Leon County.
A request for restricting access to parts of the Lock and Dam was repeated by Benge at a Houston County Commissioners Court meeting on Aug. 26.
The danger of rescuing individuals in this area was a concern voiced by Houston County Sheriff Darrel Bobbitt.
"We are all for safety," stated Leon County Judge Byron Ryder, "But there is a strong sentiment from the Leon County Commissioners Court to not eliminate access to the Lock and Dam."
"We want to work with Leon County on this," added Houston County Judge Erin Ford.
This matter was again tabled until ownership of the structure can be determined.
"We are working with Texas Park and Wildlife Attorneys to determine who actually owns the structure," said County Attorney Daphne Session. This matter was tabled again until ownership of the Lock and Dam can be determined.
From a historical perspective, the remains of the Lock and Dam provide a unique landmark.
According to a Corps of Engineers document, it was constructed as part of a Trinity River Navigation Project that began in 1906.
This project was to construct 37 locks and dams along the Trinity River, providing a stair-stepped, navigable waterway from the Gulf of Mexico to Dallas. World War I halted the project and it was abandoned in 1922, as it was too costly. Only seven of the locks and dams were built.
Making the Lock and Dam site more significant was the construction of a bridge.
An application by Hurricane Shoals Bridge Company to construct a toll bridge at the Lock and Dam site was approved by the Houston County Commissioners Court in 1923.
Tolls were set for automobiles, 75 cents; wagons with two horses or mules, 50 cents; person on horse, 25 cents; person on foot, 10 cents; and loose livestock, 10 cents per head. The bridge was later replaced by the current SH 7 Bridge.
For most people the Lock and Dam site is better known for a great place to fish than for its' historical significance. Early spring brings an abundance of fish along with people who enjoy fishing. The March 2006 issue of "Texas Park and Wildlife" Magazine included this section of the Trinity River in a list of "50 Reasons To Get Outside" due to its opportunities for White Bass fishing. "Perhaps the most popular venue is the century-old Lock and Dam immediately upstream from the Hwy. 7 Bridge," stated the article.