Dam 52 deterioration prompts Ohio River closure

Published Sept. 12, 2017
The Ohio River is closed at Locks and Dam 52 (Ohio River Mile 938.9) at Brookport, Illinois.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Locks and Dam 52 is a low lift wicket dam built in 1928 consisting of 487 timber wicket gates adjacent to one another stretching the width of the river at mile marker 938.9.  During periods of high water navigation traffic transits over top of the wicket gates, but during low water the gates must be raised individually to impound water creating a navigable depth from Locks and Dam 52 to Smithland Locks and Dam, Kentucky Lake, and Lake Barkley. 

While raising the wicket dam on Thursday, Sept.7, 2017 project personnel encountered a problem area and were unable to continue raising the wickets due to high velocity flows around the end of the dam.

The Corps is currently working multiple courses of action in order to continue raising the remaining 676 ft. of wicket dam and impound a navigable pool.

The primary course of action consists of Louisville District coordinating with Tennessee Valley Authority at Kentucky Lake and Nashville District at Lake Barkley to minimize discharges during a 12 hour period beginning at 4 a.m. Central Time on Sept.14, 2017.  The reduction in flow from the upstream projects is being done in an effort to reduce velocities at Locks and Dam 52 so the remaining wickets can be raised. The Corps will be looking at river levels at Barkley Lake at gage reading 296.5 and 293 at Kentucky Lake and Paducah.

During the reduction in flows on Sept. 14, 2017 the Locks and Dam 52 pool will be in extreme draw down throughout the day.  If successful, river conditions will return to normal state by Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017.

If attempts to continue raising the wicket dam are unsuccessful the Corps will then move to the next course of action which involves lowering the dam in its entirety and install a rock dike deflector above the problem area so repairs can be made.  This course of action will have extended draw down impacts affecting all stakeholders in the Locks and Dam 52 pool for 18-24 days before the dam could be raised again and impound a pool. 

The Corps is working with the navigation industry, government officials and stakeholders to continue to communicate the status of this fluid situation.

The Olmsted locks and dam are to be complete in 2018 which will replace Locks and Dam 52 and 53. This will help reduce river closures once Olmsted Locks and Dam is in operation. 

Carol Labashosky

Release no. 17-011

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