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Frustration mounts as Fox River Locks reopen without Menasha Lock

A view of the Menasha Lock from SKYFOX, April 25, 2017.

APPLETON (WLUK) -- This weekend, many boaters hit the water for the first time this year, but the door between two of the area's most popular waterways remains closed.

The Menasha Lock has been closed since September 2015 when round gobies were discovered under the Neenah Dam. The lock is the gateway between Little Lake Butte des Morts and Lake Winnebago.

Ever since the Menasha Lock has been closed, the Appleton Yacht Club has seen a drop in sales of gasoline, food, and drinks.

“We don't see the traffic that we used to,” said Scott Maves, the commodore of the Appleton Yacht Club. “We're kind of on the middle of a dead-end street really. There is no destination on one end and no destination on the other really anymore.”

Maves believes keeping the lock closed is just delaying the inevitable entry of gobies into Lake Winnebago.

“If they're not there already, they're going to get there,” said Maves.

Maves believes if Lake Winnebago's best interests are in mind, the lake's boat ramps should either be more closely monitored or blocked off.

“If you truly want to take care of the water, that's how you do it,” said Maves. “Closing the lock isn't going to stop it.”

“It's like having a big spider on the other side of a door, whereas the boat ramps are a little different story,” said Kendall Kamke, DNR Oshkosh Fisheries team supervisor. “You would need to actually physically have these things in a live well or somehow illegally and then knowingly drop them.”

Kamke says there is no way of knowing how the goby entered Little Lake Butte des Morts, but he admits a bait bucket transfer is possible.

“That's probably the most likely possibility is someone wasn't following the rules, either advertently or inadvertently,” said Kamke. “They got in here somehow.”

Kamke says the DNR has had at least two reports of gobies in Lake Winnebago, but both turned out to be false alarms. He says boat ramps are being monitored, but educating boaters and having them look out for gobies will be what keeps them out of Lake Winnebago.

“I would rather have and rundown a hundred false ones than miss an actual real goby that came from Lake Winnebago,” said Kamke.

If gobies are eventually found in Lake Winnebago, the DNR isn't willing to say whether the Menasha Lock would reopen.

The Fox River Navigational Authority is looking into three possibilities for reopening the lock, possibly for next year. Those options are an over-land transfer of boats, an electric barrier, and adding carbon dioxide to create a type of dead zone between the two lakes.

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