Dam 52 back in business following closures

Published Oct. 19, 2017
The Corps has built a rock dike, which will protect divers as they replace wickets in Dam 52.

The Corps has built a rock dike, which will protect divers as they replace wickets in Dam 52.

After intermittent closures at U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Locks and Dam 52, Brookport, Illinois, the main lock chamber is now back in service and open to navigation traffic.  

Locks and Dams 52 is a low lift wicket dam built in 1928 consisting of 487 timber and steel wicket gates adjacent to one another stretching the width of the Ohio River at mile marker 938.9. During periods of high water navigation traffic transits over the lowered 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.

The first closure was from Sept. 6, 2017, through Sept. 14.  The navigation pass was closed to navigation traffic while project personnel raised the wicket dam.  During the raising event there was a five-wicket hole encountered. Due to the increased velocity around the end of the dam, project personnel were unable to continue raising the wickets.  As the river elevations fell, and with decreased water velocity, project personnel were successful in raising wickets beyond the hole.  Once the wickets were raised and a navigable pool was impounded, navigation traffic began to use the lock chambers.

To aid in repairs, a rock dike was constructed above the wicket hole in the navigation pass of the wicket dam.  Working divers will replace the wickets when the wicket dam is lowered due to the natural rise of the river. 

The second closure was from Oct. 8 through Oct. 14.  Due to the rise of the river, the wicket dam was over-topped and the maximum locking elevation was reached on Oct. 8.  River elevations returned to an appropriate elevation to resume locking on Oct. 14. 

“Project personnel have assessed the wickets and continue to correct breached wickets caused by the over-topping event,” said Waylon Humphrey, operations manager, Louisville District.   

“To ensure the most reliable navigation conditions possible, USACE continues to work with all projects on the Ohio River as well as Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley, to provide consistent hydrologic flows to the Locks and Dam 52 project,” he said 

The Olmsted Locks and Dam will come on line in the summer of 2018 to replace locks and dams 52 and 53.