The flooding began with the turn of valves by Panama Canal Administrator Jorge Quijano during a ceremony Thursday at the construction site on the outskirts of Colon City.
The flooding phase kicks off a series of operational tests and quality control that will be completed in the lead up to the opening of the new Third Set of Locks in 2016.
“This event highlights the magnitude of what we have been working on for the past seven years,” said Panama Canal Administrator/CEO Jorge L. Quijano. “Filling the locks with water is the culmination of arduous years of labor and the realization that we are within arm’s reach of the completion of one of the most impressive infrastructure projects of our time.”
The initial phase of flooding will take approximately five days and involve the pumping of approximately 50 thousand cubic meters of water per hour from Gatun Lake into the lower chambers of the new lock.
The same process will then fill the rest of the Atlantic sections of locks, reaching a water level of 27 meters above sea level. Tests and inspections of the chambers and gates are expected to take approximately four months, according to the Panama Canal Authority.
Each lock complex – Atlantic and Pacific – includes 8 rolling gates and nine water-saving basins with a filling and emptying side system.
“With the addition of these water-savings basins,” said Quijano, “we will recycle nearly 60 percent of the water used in every lockage, using the world’s most advanced systems and enhancing the Canal’s reliability. With this new phase, expansion nears closer and closer to completion.”
The Panama Canal expansion project involves the construction of a third lane of traffic, or Third set of Locks, which will allow the passage of larger vessels and effectively double the Canal’s capacity. The new locks are expected to become operational in 2016.