Ohio River Locks and Dam 52 reopens

USACE: Ohio River to open to traffic at Brookport Lock & Dam in 8-10 hours

BROOKPORT, IL (KFVS) - The Ohio River Locks and Dam 52 has reopened to river traffic.

According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, it reopened at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, September 14 after worker successfully raised the dam.

The Corps reduced water releases from Smithland Locks and Dam upstream at around 3 a.m. on Wednesday to provide better river conditions for the Corps to raise dam wickets at Locks and Dam 52. The reduced water releases resulted in a lower pool level, which stopped commercial navigation from locking through Locks and Dam around 5 a.m.

"Thanks to the U.S. Coast Guard, river industry, the Kentucky emergency operations center and Nashville District Corps of Engineers for their support during this emergency shutdown of the Locks and Dam 52 pool," said Col. Christopher Beck, commander, Louisville District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. "I also want to thank the Louisville District employees who raised the wickets - difficult and hazardous work - to reopen the river to commercial navigation."

During the dam raising, vessels were stopped in the Smithland Locks and Dam pool at Ohio River mile 918.5 going downstream, at Barkley Lock on the Cumberland River and Kentucky Lock on the Tennessee River. River traffic was also halted on the Ohio River going upstream at Locks and Dam 52.

The Corps closed the locks at 52 after the dam lost three wickets when their base connections failed and attempts to raise remaining wickets were unsuccessful because of river and dam conditions.

The three-wicket hole blocked the Corps workboat from crossing the dam to continue raising wickets, increasing safety concerns on already hazardous work.

Corps contractors then placed anchors in the Ohio River bed. If another gap in the wicket dam should occur, the workboat can attach to the anchors to steady the vessel and cross missing wickets, allowing work to raise the dam to proceed safely.

Although the three-wicket hole has not been repaired, the Corps plans to sustain the dam until natural river conditions raise levels to allow the dam to be lowered and the missing wickets replaced.

The Corps worked to minimize impacts on navigation and transportation of fuels, grains and other commodities, and to avoid impacts to water intakes for businesses and communities.

"Locks and Dam 52 is a remnant of the 1920s river system, and the 1200-foot lock, built in the 1970s, was a temporary chamber to last for up to 15 years. It is well past its life expectation," Beck said. "We continue Olmsted Locks and Dam construction which is planned to be in operation in 2018. Then, Locks and Dams 52 and 53 can be removed from operation."

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers discussed repairs to Lock and Dam 52 in Brookport, Illinois at noon on Wednesday.

According to the Corps during the press conference, traffic on the Ohio River would be moving again within 8-10 hours.

Several busted pieces of the Ohio River dam at Lock and Dam in Brookport, Illinois caused quite the headache for Army Corps of Engineers crews.

The area was closed to river traffic at 3 a.m. Wednesday while repairs were made.

According to the Army Corps of Engineers, this portion of the river transports approximately $70 million worth of commodities a year.

It is part of the 1920 Ohio River Dam system and uses wickets to stop the flow of the river when the water level is becoming too low for boat travel.

"Three of those wickets have been disconnected from the bottom of the river," said Todd Hornback, chief Public Affairs Officer for the Army Corps of Engineers in Louisville.

Boat travel was stopped at 5 a.m. until the wickets could be replaced.

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