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Construction underway at Kentucky Lock

Published: Aug. 24, 2021 at 3:59 PM CDT
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GRAND RIVERS, Ky. (KFVS) - Construction is underway at the Kentucky Lock.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is building a new, modernized 1,200-foot lock to work in conjunction with the current 600-foot lock.

Construction is underway at the Kentucky Lock.
Construction is underway at the Kentucky Lock.(KFVS)

The project officially began in 1996, but the Crops said it was underfunded until 2016. Since then, progress has been moving along steadily to build a second, bigger lock to work in conjunction with the current lock.

The locks work to move commercial, military and recreational boats between the higher-elevated Kentucky Lake and the Tennessee River.

A common barge size is a 15-tow barge, but the small lock currently cannot accommodate that size. It can only hold, so in order to get through they have to break apart the barge and reconstruct it on the other side.

Currently, it takes on average of 12 hours for a vessel to get through the lock. If no one is waiting, it can take as little as 40 minutes.

Once the new lock is finished, they said there will be virtually no wait time to lock through.

Construction is underway at the Kentucky Lock.
Construction is underway at the Kentucky Lock.(KFVS)

According to the Corps, the locks are an important system to have for commercial hauling because water travel is much more efficient than railways or trucks. Barges can carry more than either of those and do it more economically and environmentally efficiently.

“Here, locally, the towing industry, the commercial towing operators and the shippers that are moving commodities here through Kentucky lock will benefit greatly,” said Deb Calhoun, senior vice president of Waterways Council. “That efficiency will be cut in half. Right now, it can take up to 12 or more hours waiting to lock through when you have to break that tow apart very inefficient. Costly to industry and shippers and to consumers ultimately so when we have the modern 1,200 foot chamber that it will be able to accommodate our modern tows and our modern commodity transportation movement.”

The Army Corps of Engineering is looking to award a contract for the next phase of the project within the next 60-90 days and estimate that the entire lock will be completed by 2029.

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