Water conveyors and waterways in Lombardy

A sense of urgency permeates the air in Lombardy as well as in neighbouring Piedmont, Emilia Romagna and Veneto regions, regarding Italy’s network of navigable canals and rivers. What reality will be revealed to the world of inland waterway specialists and advocates, meeting in Milan on September 1st for the 27th World Canals Conference? It is a reality of water conveyors and waterways, in places going their separate ways, but often combined within the same bed. Waterway cross-roads, intakes, siphons, spillways, aqueducts are the nodes of an intricate network spun across the Lombardy plain, and nothing is simple. Even Italy’s second biggest Alpine lake, Lago Maggiore, is used as a reservoir and drawn down by as much as 1.50m to secure irrigation water supplies during a dry summer.

Article in La Stampa

The ambitious project to restore navigation between Lago Maggiore (Locarno) and the river Po is regularly covered by the regional and national Press. This article focuses on work to start soon on a new lock at Porto della Torre, on the Piedmont bank of the Ticino

It is nearly 20 years since IWI’s founders attended a conference in Milan on the ‘civilisation of water and waterways’ and the heritage left by Leonardo da Vinci and other great Italian engineers. At that time a grouping of Rotary clubs in the Adda valley was actively promoting restoration of the locks on the Adda as well as the Naviglio di Paderno (followed by the Martesana towards Milan). The campaign sadly lost momentum after the president Mario Roveda died of a heart attack in 1997, but IWI, represented in Italy by industrial archeology expert Edo Bricchetti, has constantly been supporting the regional initiatives in favour of a navigable system serving ‘slow’ tourism and appreciation of the extraordinary heritage and environment of the canal corridors.

Navigli Lombardi was founded to drive these efforts, but does not manage the canals themselves; that is the prerogative of the Consorzio Villoresi, which has the concession from the Region to manage the water resource and supply the many needs of agriculture, industry and the population. This means that the ‘water conveyor’ function has priority here, in the same way as it has priority on another famous southern European canal, the Canal de Castilla in Spain.

Despite this priority, politicians in Milan and across the plain, including the neighbouring regions, are massively in favour of restoring and adapting the 1000-year legacy of canals and controlled rivers, to make navigation once again a regular form of mobility in both urban and rural areas.

Turbigo spillway

This spillway in Turbigo is only one part of a complex junction between the ‘industrial canal’ and the Naviglio Grande

Achieving this goal means compromises and concessions. As climate change increases the pressure on water resources, it is likely to become increasingly difficult to obtain management of water channels that is compatible with navigability, even by professional helmsmen. Another difficulty faced by all players in Lombardy is a certain degree of confusion in the minds of Milanese citizens, possibly even some planners and architects, between water conveyors and waterways. This is only the briefest of introductions to a fascinating story that will be told here in the coming days and weeks… background notes for the discussions during the World Canals Conference and the pre- and post-conference tours. (to be continued)
David Edwards-May

Boats and sewerage: game over?

The subject is not totally taboo, but in 40 years of activity on the inland waterways, a ‘world of its own’, I have found that people prefer to avoid it. ‘The less said the better’, seems to be the motto ! Confronted with two conflicting ‘politically correct’ opinions, Euromapping decided to undertake a detailed survey, starting on March 1st 2013, to get a precise overview.
It is hardly a caricature to say that ‘canal folk’ justify their direct discharge into the canal by arguing that the environment easily absorbs the effluent load. On the other side, landlubbers are horrified by the idea that tourists are free to ‘do it’ in the canal and shocked by the fact that this ‘public convenience’ is used free of charge.
Historically involved in development of the waterways in SW France, Euromapping is ideally placed to conduct this investigation and assemble reliable data on the Canal des Deux Mers, despite the reluctance of players to address the subject.
All are aware of what is required by EU and French law. The manufacturers know better than anyone, since they fit their boats with the necessary holding tanks, but marine toilets are still the norm on many boats.
The questions are straightforward :
– How are boats equipped for sewerage ?
– Do trip boats, hotel boats, etc. have separate holding tanks for grey water and black water ?
– What is the storage volume ?
– Are pumps integrated on board ?
– What is the interval between pump-outs ? Where are they done ? and by what methods ?
These are followed by qualitative questions designed to note the sensitivities of users and their willingness to pay sanitation services, for those who today have no alternative but to discharge into the canal.
Canals as ecosystems : a session at the World Canals Conference – to be held in Toulouse on 16-19 September – is devoted to this murky subject. It was time for the consulting firm Euromapping to clarify the stakes, with its partners.

Parks Canada’s heritage canals saga continues

The saga of the Canadian Heritage canals managed by Parks Canada grinds on. In the early New Year Parks Canada introduced a new fee schedule for using the locks on its three major historic canals; the Rideau, The Trent Severn Waterway and the Quebec Canals.

Not only was Parks Canada proposing a whole new way of charging for the service offered, but also increasing these fees substantially. So for a boater, the cost to use the locks and moor increased well beyond any form of a reasonable increase. This was fuelled by the earlier changes to the navigation season service offer (see earlier posts). That exercise left many boaters, business people, communities, tour and rental boat companies and users very angry. The Government did keep its promise not to reduce the length of the season (see overly optimistic announcement posted here October 23, 2012) however, the devil was in the details, and as it turned out they reduced very substantially the hours of service within the season, the amount or degree of service in the shoulder seasons and reduced operating staff substantially.

So, then in the New Year out came a new fee schedule and format, which caused a firestorm of reaction along the canal corridors. It was so intense that within a couple of days Parks Canada started to make changes most likely in response to the number and intensity of comments they were hearing from the public. Since that time and well before the final date for comments, they have made further changes to their proposals in trying to deal with the shortcomings of the original plan. However, even with these changes the fee rate is increasing substantially. Most users were willing to see rates increase, but something within reason and based on some type of a business case which has not been forthcoming after many requests.

What is sad is the impact it has had on Parks Canada’s credibility as an organization that knew how to operate canals and understood their importance from a cultural, natural or economic perspective. However, the accumulative impact of the changes for lockage fees plus the reduction of service level will without a doubt diminish the use and opportunities which in turn puts more pressure on the increased revenues versus costs ratio that the government seems to be demanding of Parks Canada. It misses the point and doesn’t take into account that these heritage waterways are economic drivers for their communities and they contribute substantially to the GDP of the country. As an example; the Parks Canada Economic Impact Study of the Rideau Canal 2010/2011 determined that the $10.5 million spent on the Rideau, generated $44.4 million to the GDP and supported 641 full time equivalent jobs, and this was only visits to lock stations. It didn’t include the people who visit resorts, restaurants, stores, marinas, museums, etc. that are prevalent up and down the corridor.

So, there are still many unanswered questions. What will the final fee schedule be for the coming navigation season? What will the fall out be on visitation and use of the canal at a time when the government is pushing for economic initiatives to keep the economy healthy? What will the cultural and natural heritage impacts be for these canals after major changes in how they are organized when the number of specialists in these fields has been greatly reduced and are not necessarily on site?  Will the water management function have the capability, knowledge and experience to meet the demand and intricacies of the operation and not seriously jeopardize public safety and is it sustainable? Will all of these changes work over the long haul or will public safety, the heritage values and canal use be in jeopardy? Sadly only time will tell and by then it may be too late!!

David Ballinger

What future for Canal du Midi?

VNF’s summary report on its activities in 2012 devotes one of its 10 chapters to the tree-replanting programme and corporate patronage approach to funding the €200 million restoration of the Canal du Midi’s characteristic landscape.

VNF's new logo

VNF has a logo which keeps the old, enriching it with evocative graphics by Philippe Apeloig

VNF reports (in its New Year press release) that it felled 1668 plane-trees condemned by canker stain in 2012, and replanted 68: the uninformed reader immediately sees a ‘deficit’ of 1600 trees. This sad statistic, however inevitable in view of the experimental nature of the first replanting operations, is like a wake-up call. The tree-felling and replanting debate – and the questions surrounding the should not become an excuse for inaction in other areas.
This is one of many concerns expressed by the Toulouse Waterway Information Network, a grouping of waterway interests in SW France. The network (Réseau Fluvial Toulousain) is challenging local and regional politicians to come up with a robust and workable plan to develop the waterway economy. It is convinced that France in general – and in this case SW France – possesses unique skills, resources and capability to make the canal economy more vibrant, and create more jobs, generate more income.
They say this is what the World Canals Conference* should be all about, and call for a debate to be held in the context of this international conference, a debate which should leave no stone unturned in the search for viable management models and economic development for our canals and rivers.
A properly-planned future for the Canal des Deux Mers should be an issue in the 2014 municipal elections, and the réseau hopes that candidates will state their positions in their manifestos.
* Salons Vanel, Toulouse, 16-19 septembre 2013 – see the WCC web site

Canada’s canals escape cuts

Good news for Canada’s Historic Canals! The length of the navigation season and the hours of operation of Parks Canada’s historic canals will see little changes in the 2013 season. The length of season will remain the same, with some operational adjustments in the shoulder season. This is very good news for the communities, businesses, and users of the waterways under Parks Canada’s jurisdiction. The announcement by the Minister of the Environment is reproduced below.
Our congratulations to the Minister and Parks Canada is recognizing the importance of these historic waterways. Hopefully this will also be recognized as they follow through on their reorganziation models, ensuring the natural and cultural heritage is protected and the importance of the water management and telling the story are also noted and taken into account.
Dave Ballinger, 23 October 2012

Minister Kent announces 2013 navigation season for historic canals and Trent-Severn Waterway
OTTAWA, Ontario, October 18, 2012 -The Honourable Peter Kent, Canada’s Minister of the Environment and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, today announced the 2013 navigation season for historic canals and Trent-Severn Waterway.
“National Historic canals are a defining feature of Canada, and provide communities and regions with beauty, recreation and a unique sense of history,” said Minister Kent.  “I am pleased to announce that the 2013 navigation season will continue from Victoria Day to Thanksgiving, as in previous years.”
“Parks Canada will continue providing ‘upon arrival’ services throughout the peak summer period, and offer a modified service seven days a week through scheduled lockages in the spring and fall period. For the canals 2013 navigation season, Parks Canada will align its hours of operation and personal service offer to better reflect patterns of use, offering between 7 and 9 hours of service per day.
“With this decision, the canals and the surrounding communities will continue flourishing as a vibrant centre of our regions,” added Minister Kent. “The government appreciated the constructive feedback we received from the public, and was pleased to work with the local Members of Parliament, Mayors, business leaders, and stakeholders, to determine a workable schedule going forward that is affordable while minimizing the impact on the local economies and visitors.
“Parks Canada will continue its stewardship of cultural and environmental resources providing meaningful experiences that promote understanding and appreciation of Canada, and supporting local communities through tourism – as it has done for the last 100 years.”

‘Regatta’ promotes Serb canals

Radomir  Ječinac  reports from Belgrade, Serbia, on the ‘regatta’ (flotilla cruise) organised on the canals and waterways of Serbia in June/July 2012.

Remember IWI’s annual World Canals Conference held in Serbia, in the beautiful city of Novi Sad on the Danube, in 2009? The host, Vode Vojvodine (Vojvodina waters) is an all-important institution in our country, which was founded to manage the network of artificial canals in this relatively flat province in northern Serbia. When the Irish boat Aquarelle entered Serbia in July of that year (encouraged by WCC co-host Danube Propeller), and Mike and Rosaleen Miller asked for permission to cruise through the Vojvodina canals, this was en eye-opener for Vode Vojvodine, who were encouraged to give official status to what was previously an informal gathering of domestic boaters each year.

VV Regatta Route 2012

Itinerary for the 11-day cruise, including some of the lesser-used canals

The event has since gone from strength to strength, and I joined this year’s regatta, with a full programme to delight Serb boaters for 11 days (see map, left), from June 24 to July 4. This was the 4th to be organized by VV: 10 stages in 11 days over 300km of canals between Novi Sad and Bezdan. Ah, Bezdan! We heave a sigh at every mention of the name, because the entrance lock here from the Danube is still closed. We still had our moneys’ worth, though, since these 300 km represent half of the Vojvoodina network.

Warned that the number of boats had to be limited, the skippers of some 90 motor cruisers and dayboats of all possible types and sizes, 250 people in all, sent their booking forms as soon as the event was announced! Mothers and fathers of families, to say nothing of the Dog‘, as Jerome K. Jerome remarked. There were couples with children who had barely started walking.

Regatta enters the main canal at Novi Sad

Nearly 90 boats enter the main canal at Novi Sad, approaching the first lock on the cruise

Nearly half the  boats came from afar, boat harbours on the Danube or Tisa, for example: from Belgrade, Zemun, Pancevo, Smederevo, Novi Bečej on the Tisa, not afraid of all the extra kilometres and the strong current of the Danube to reach the starting point at Novi Sad. One sizeable boat came from Vukovar, Croatia, thus giving the event its international character.

The regatta’s Commodore was Mirjana Živković, hydrotechnical engineer at VV, petite, a bundle of energy with bright black eyes, tireless and ubiquitous, participating in the regatta herself with her boat and family, ‘to say nothing of the dog’ in this case also! She had to deal with a complex organization: locks, free passage for participating vessels, technical and first aid teams, municipal receptions for participants, refreshments and local cuisine, al fresco meals along the canals, folklore programs, minimum supplies by itinerant merchants, etc.). For us Serbs, with a litre of diesel costing €1.50, and average monthly wages between 300 and 400 euros, the benefits of organised navigation are obvious.

On pages 35 and 36 of the European Waterways Map and Directory (2008 edition) we read of the attraction of this annual regatta for Serbian boaters. IWI can therefore congratulate itself for having contributed in a way to what is now the biggest navigation event in Serbia.

Backi Monostor floating bridge

Backi Monostor floating bridge on one of the little-used canals on the VV system

VV Regatta mooring

The author beside his boat at a quiet mooring in Bezdan

Canal & River Trust launched

The British Government placed 2000 miles of canals and rivers in trust for the nation, as the new charity, the Canal & River Trust, was launched on July 12. The trust takes over responsibility for the canals of England and Wales from British Waterways, 50 years after the British Waterways Board was founded in 1962.

C&RT and BW logos

Canal & River Trust logo compared to the British Waterways logo used since 1981

The change in governance had been planned for several years, as reported in IWI’s publications. The logo neatly adapts the traditional BW humped-back bridge, which had been the public corporation’s logo since 1981. The swan represents the environmental quality and values of the waterways more dynamically and actively than the reeds.

The focus in launching the charity is on the 10 million ‘users and lovers of the canals’ who will have an opportunity to play a greater role in securing their future, through the Trust. The Trust’s first patron is HRH The Prince of Wales, who recorded a welcome speech on June 12. Poet Ian McMillan also wrote an evocative poem for the occasion, ‘Canal Life‘, suggesting that canals hang in that place between memories and water.

Half the population of the UK lives within five miles of a Canal & River Trust waterway. The system has 1569 locks.

The sober statement on the British Waterways web page says that the corporation ceased to exist in England and Wales on July 2. In Scotland British Waterways continues to exist as a legal entity caring for the canals under the trading name ‘Scottish Canals‘.

The Trust has also taken over BW’s information portal waterscape.com.

We wish the Canal & River Trust every success!

Pontcysyllte Aqueduct

Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, a UNESCO World Heritage site, at a son et lumière celebration on July 12. The event celebrated creation of the CRT and the 3rd anniversary of listing of the site (shared by Rachel Allen)


Lombardy’s key role in world canal history

Edo Bricchetti, a member of IWI’s Council and The International Council for Conservation of Industrial Heritage (TICCIH), has been tirelessly defending the priceless heritage of Lombardy’s historic canals, the navigli, working closely with the responsible authorities for more than 20 years. During this time, although it does not directly manage the canals, Lombardy Region has set up an agency, SCARL Navigli Lombardi, whose task is to coordinate restoration works, develop tourism and promote the heritage of the canals themselves and their corridors; these canals are the ideal vector to visit gems of architecture, enjoy cultural landscapes and see countless vestiges of the industry that for centuries used the abundant waters crossing the plain.

The Lombardy canal system

The five navigli between the partially canalised rivers Ticino and Adda

Lombardy at the time of Leonardo da Vinci
When Leonardo da Vinci arrived in Milan in 1482, he discovered works of hydraulic engineering that were already unrivalled in Italy or even throughout Europe. The Viarenna lock, within the city limits, had already been in operation for 40 years, while to the north-east the city was served by the Naviglio della Martesana.
During his 25 years in Milan, Leonardo was to make a significant contribution to improvement of the waterway system which was the most extensive and strategic in Europe at that time.
Between the Ticino and the Po the Padua plain is divided horizontally into distinct sections, between the arid and infertile strip of land to the north and the well-watered lower plain to the south, better suited to agriculture. Springs, irrigation feeders, channels and offtakes conveyed water for irrigation, where formerly spring water and the left-bank tributaries of the Po flowed into stagnant marshes. The canals enabled cultivation of vast areas of arid land to the north of wide tracts of low vegetation and dense heathland. On this network, in the towns, in the villages and countryside, grain mills were established, oil presses, basins for husking rice, paper and felt mills, presses for working metals, tanneries for leather. In short, all economic activity revolved around the waterways, which acquired strategic importance in the regulation of flows for hydraulic energy and for transport.
Lombardy civilisation was founded on this combined use – for industry and agriculture, leading to the development of considerable areas of land, where traditional trades and crafts coexisted with new forms of agriculture, new manufacturing industries, trades and communications.

Brief history of the canal system
Situated roughly half way between the Ticino and the Adda, Milan has always seen these two rivers as potential outlets to the sea through the Po. After abandoning the idea of a direct connection to the broad river through the Lambro, the city concentrated on a system of canals, which were built over a period of seven centuries.
They are divided into two subsystems. The Naviglio Grande, the Naviglio di Bereguardo and the Naviglio di Pavia belong to the Ticino; the Naviglio Martesana and Naviglio di Paderno are connected to and supplied from the Adda. These were linked by the fossa interna or canal ring in the centre of Milan, not unlike the grachten which characterised Dutch cities. Commercial activity was concentrated in the large basins at Porta Ticinese and San Marco.
However, Milan’s dream of becoming a seaport remained unfulfilled for many years, mainly for political reasons, but also on account of objective technical difficulties of navigation (climatic events, irregular river flow regime, problems of water table rise, and competition with nearby cities for control of the waterways). All these obstacles were overcome by the practical approach of the Milanese who already in Roman times, from the second century AD, adapted the smaller rivers Seveso, Nirone and Vettabbia for small-scale navigation.
Ravenna, capital of the Empire of Bysance and Pavia, capital of the eastern Roman empire, served as centres of exchange of produce between the Orient (precious metals, woven cloth, spices and miscellaneous goods) and the West (weapons, timber, construction materials, foodstuffs).
Around the year 1000, Milan, Lodi and Pavia were in bitter competition for access to the river outlets, especially Lodi, protected by the Emperor Federico Barbarossa, and Milan, elected a free City. In particular Barbarossa, who founded the new city of Lodi on 3 December 1158, granted it the status of exclusive port of the Adda. Milan fought bitterly to defend its only access to the Adda through the Lambro, navigable at that time. Inevitably, only three years after the battle of Legnano and the historic victory of Lombardy Communes over the Emperor (1179), the Milanese started work (in the village of Panperduto) on a canal for trade on the left bank of the Ticino. The canal was to transport goods originating from Verbano and nearby Switzerland, thus releasing the city from blockades and imperial control. They were assisted by a flood which, by inundating land near the canal, suggested the extension of the section already built between Abbiategrasso and Landriano (Ticinello, 1157). The limit of navigation was extended in 1187 to Trezzano, in 1211 to St Eustorgio bridge in Milan, and in 1253 to Gaggiano (Naviglio di Gaggiano). The third section, completed in 1257, finally completed the Verbano-Ticino-Milan system.
In 1272 the canal, called the Naviglio Grande, was already in regular use by barges, transporting wood, hay, cheese, cattle, marble and granite to the city, while “exports” upstream included salt, iron, grain and various manufactured goods.
To the south, however, Milan could rely only on the Navigliaccio, completed by order of Gian Galeazzo di Visconti in 1359, for irrigation of Castello di Pavia (and later extended for 8 km to the Certosa di Pavia), and on the Naviglio di Bereguardo, between Abbiategrasso and Bereguardo.
Meanwhile, they applied themselves to connection of the Naviglietto (1156) to the Lombardy waterway network through the Conca di Viarenna (1440) near the lake of Sant’Eustorgio. This connection suggested the future development of a circular canal connecting all the navigli, with the Porta Ticinese canal basin at its centre.
The Incoronata (‘coronation’) lock at San Marco, near Borgo Nuovo at Porta Orientale (built under decrees for reform of navigation by Ludovic the Moor dated 13 October 1496 and 15 April 1497), completed the connection of waters of the Ticino to those of the Adda.
The latter was reached via the Naviglio Piccolo del Martesana, thus named after the county it crossed. Construction of this waterway, of great strategic importance for the city’s economic development, was suggested by the Milanese demand for goods originating in the Valtellina and the Valsassina valleys, especially after the conquests of Lodi and Pavia, from 1335 and 1339. Goods would be carried down the Lario and Adda rivers.
Thus the excavation of the Naviglio del Martesana was completed in only six years, between 1457 and 1463, from Concesa to Cassina de’ Pom. The gradient of the waterway made it possible to provide irrigation offtakes throughout its length, and hydraulic energy for manufacturing works, as well as navigation. The goods transported were principally (heading downstream) coarse and dressed quarry stone, lime, bricks, metals, sand and gravel, weapons and tools in wrought iron, foodstuffs and agricultural produce, wood and coal; boats would return upstream from the city towards the lake with some manufactured goods, but the main cargo was salt. The economic importance of this waterway soon led to the construction of a genuine, dedicated inland port in the San Marco basin in Milan.
However, the waterway suffered from the interruption caused by the Paderno rapids which prevented navigation in the section between Paderno and Cornate d’Adda. Shattered on these rapids were not only a number of intrepid boatmen, but the Milanese dream of uninterrupted navigation from lake Como to the city. Goods thus had to be transhipped and transported overland from Brivio to Trezzo, that is from the confluence of the Lario to the only waterway effectively navigable to the east of Milan, the Naviglio del Martesana.
The French king François I thus decided in 1516 to give the city of Milan 10 000 ducats per year, in support of construction of a new navigable canal, to serve his own political ambitions. Various projects were drawn up, which revived the old idea of a direct link from the lake at Lecco to Milan. A public commission, made up of the engineers Bartolomeo Della Valle and Benedetto de Missaglia, surveyed various solutions which suggested using successively water diverted from the Lambro, then from the Molgora, the Seveso, the Lura and the Olona, and finally, Lake Como. The latter option was chosen, with a choice of two routes: the first was for a major new canal, leaving the river at Brivio and running across the plain via Vimercate and Monza directly to Milan; the second involved using the Naviglio del Martesana and the river Adda from Trezzo to Brivio.
The latter project was judged feasible within space of two years and with the sum of approximately 50 000 Ecus. The Milan Senate decreed on 26 September 1518 to choose this second option, which again was debated between two engineering approaches. Should navigation be developed within the natural river bed, removing all obstacles (using locks in the bed of the river itself)? or should the river bed be avoided in certain sections, by building by-pass canals on the Milanese side of the valley? The second approach, proposed by engineer Benedetto de Missaglia, was chosen. This involved excavation of a canal on the Milanese side of the valley from the locality called Tre Corni to the sacred site of La Rocchetta. Placed in charge of the works was the architect and painter Giuseppe Meda, author (in 1574) of the project for a magnificent structure of masonry, portals and lock-gates in timber, bridges and various mechanisms, capable of overcoming the difference in level of the rapids with a single pound lock featuring separate upstream and downstream gate structures, called castelli d’acque (or ‘water towers’). The downstream structure was originally to be built to a height of 17.82m, while the upstream structure was 5.94 m high. However, various difficulties, compounded by the plague of 1567 and above all by bureaucratic delays, led to abandonment of the initiative.
Construction was in fact approved by the King of Spain only in 1590. The works started between 1590 and 1593 finished in the aftermath of disputes and trials which dragged on between 1596 and 1597. Meda even carried weapons on him as he went about his business, to defend himself.
Meda died in August 1599, and with him all ambitions for completion of the enterprise. The water introduced in the first section in 1603 was drained away completely in 1617, on account of the impossibility of keeping the pound watertight; the inlet was blocked off, the site installations were dismantled and the materials sold off. Under Spanish domination (1525-1748), Milan went through a period of total inertia, again complicated by the bitter opposition of Como and Bergamo to all plans for navigable canals to Milan, which they considered as a serious threat to their own traffics.
Had it not been for the determination of some of Meda’s followers, and for the clear and precise designs of the Austrian administrators, supported by the Italian engineers, the works would never have been completed. It was under the first period of Austrian domination (1748-1796) that the ambitious project for implementation of the Naviglio di Paderno was revived. The studies were revised by count Firmian, representative of the Austrian government in Lombardy, by the adviser Pecis and by mathematicians Antonio Lecchi, Francesco Maria De Regis and Paolo Frisi. Count Firmian, responsible for approval of the works, finally advised minister Kaunitz to accept the bid by the contractor Nosetti (13 July 1773). The project provided for reuse of Meda’s lock foundations, but with the height of the downstream lock reduced to about a third of that in Meda’s original plan.
Nosetti doubted the feasibility of a lock as deep as that proposed by Meda, and envisaged breaking up the difference in level into six pounds instead of two, with the canal’s intake and outlet established respectively at Sasso di San Michele and Valle della Rocchetta.
On 11 October 1777 the canal was opened to navigation amid intense public and official festivities, in the presence of count Firmian, whose inaugural boat proceeded down the canal from Brivo to Vaprio, with the Archduke of Austria also on board. However, a structural failure at one of the locks delayed final opening of the canal until 6th October 1779.

Lombardy, a land of engineers never fully appreciated, and of works left incomplete

© Prof. Edoardo Bricchetti, 1998, edited by David Edwards-May, 2012

Martesana entrance and Trezzo viaduct in 1891

Iron bridge at Trezzo sull'Adda, opened for the Monza-Bergamo railway in 1890; the painting by Carlo Jotti dates from the following year, and shows the entrance to the Naviglio della Martesana in the foreground


Canals and waterways worldwide…

… and all who use them!

Welcome to IWI’s blog! The association, founded in 1995*, aims to raise awareness of the value of navigable rivers and canals in many of the densely-populated regions of the planet. Lobbying for governments’ attention and spending on waterways for moving freight and all their other functions is a constant challenge. The other transport modes carry more weight in corporate terms, while tourism and recreational uses are considered by many decision-makers as ‘secondary’ functions, to be planned and managed at the regional or local level. So not only are we in a minority as voters in elections, we are also promoting widely differing types of waterway and economic uses, with separate political levels of responsiblity and decision-making!

In this situation, where inland waterways are ‘off the radar’ of most politicians, and often only partially on the radar of the others, communication is critical to achieving our objectives. We hope that this blog will contribute to strengthening the links among like-minded people and organisations. It’s also about a certain philosophy, a way of appreciating unique cultural landscapes and environments that we have on our doorsteps, at the same time supporting the ongoing use of waterways for transporting goods, as lifelines for industry. This means new, larger canals and locks or lifts, and building missing links in Europe, Asia, North and South America, Africa, where justified in economic and environmental terms.

As with any lobbying organisation, a lot of work is conducted behind the scenes. All who wish to join in are more than welcome! Details on our Membership page. These public pages will cover a wide range of topics, many derived from the web sites we have been managing for the last 15 years.

We look forward to working with you in furthering the cause of sensible spending to build and maintain inland waterways for their many economic, environmental and social benefits.

* from the International Committee of the Inland Waterways Association, UK, founded by the late Ronald W. Oakley