Third Locks Continued:

          Favorable sites for the new locks and their channels were found by a preliminary survey in the field.  With core drills, engineers brought up samples of subsurface rock, to make sure of a substantial foundation for the massive concrete lock chambers.  Artificial earthquakes, produced by setting off explosives, prove that rock formations free of faults. Investigations showed that the present water supply would amply suffice for both the old and new lock systems.
          Actual work on the third-lock system will begin at once, with initial funds of $114,000,000 just voted by Congress.  As the huge project gets underway, whole new towns will spring up at construction centers.  First steps include building roads, relocating railways, and excavating the locks sites and approach channels, which total about ten miles in length.  Then will come the building of the giant locks themselves.  Fast-moving world events may call for drastic speed-up measures to hasten the mighty engineering feat.

Chapter from: The Panama Canal In Peace and War by Norman J. Padelford, 1942

Special Engineering Division

          On May 1, 1936, Congress passed, and the President approved, a resolution authorizing and directing the Governor to study the possibility of increasing the capacity of the Panama Canal, and to prepare designs and to submit cost estimates for any new construction.  Pursuant to this, a Special Engineering Section was created by the Governor on July 1, 1937, to make the necessary investigations.  For a year and a half this Section made a careful study of the topography, hydrography, and the basic subjects connected with the project.  It explored and sub-surface tested the locations where additional facilities might be installed.  It also tested the condition of the concrete in the existing locks, with a view to ascertaining whether strengthening was required in the light of developments in military science.  A report was made by the Governor to the Congress on February 24, 1939, recommending the adoption of certain plans for protective work on the existing lock structures, and for the construction of a new set of locks as well.  The recommendations contained in the report were adopted in substance in an authorization measure passed by Congress August 11, 1939.  The epochal Act authorized, but did not appropriate the funds for, the construction of additional facilities, including the third set of locks, additional approach channels, and other appurtenant works for the purposes of more adequately providing for the defense of the Canal and for increasing its capacity to handle vessels longer than one thousand feet or more than one hundred and ten feet wide.  The Special Engineering Division continued its work subsequently by elaborating the necessary details of blue prints, designs, maps; the drawing-up of excavation, supply materials, labor force, and other essential specifications; the designation of spoil dumps, worker's sites; exact location of new locks and their approach channels; superintendence of an exhaustive soil, materials, and model testing program, plus figuring of costs.  This Division was place under the leadership of a Designing Engineer, who, like the heads of the Dredging Division and Plans Section, was ordered to report directly to the Engineer of Maintenance. 
          With Congressional approval of the new construction granted, the Governor established another division with the Department of Operation and Maintenance on September 20, 1939, known as the Special Construction Division.  The province of the Division included supervision of the construction of the new locks, the by-pass approach channels, and the protective installations. First excavation by dredging for the Miraflores by-pass was begun on July 1, 1940, following the passage by Congress of the Appropriation Act on June 24, 1940.  the first dry excavation was inaugurated at Gatun, February 19, 1941.  As the work progressed, the Special Engineering Section and Special Construction Division were consolidated as the Special Engineering Division under the leadership of the Supervising Engineer, who is immediately responsible to the Engineer of Maintenance.
          The new construction is under the supervision of the Governor of the Panama Canal.  A large part of the direction falls, however, from day to day upon the Engineer of Maintenance.  He is the coordinator of the planning, contact letting, hiring, superintending, and construction.  His office is, as it were, general headquarters, through which all matters must clear, and in which the vital decisions must be made. Conferences are held here every week, bringing together the ranking personnel, Canal and contacting, having to do with the prosecution of the undertaking.  Here final approval must be given for specifications before work is undertaken and upon each competed unit. Mush of the responsibility for the successful and expeditious completion of the new build will, therefore rest with the Engineer of Maintenance.

Continue to next page