Intermittent closures at river navigation Locks and Dam 52, Brookport, Ill. throughout the fall of 2017 and winter of 2018, had strained the Army Corps of Engineers Louisville District workforce at this location. River traffic had to stop, the river was closed and repairs to the dam had to be made. The dam would also have to be raised or lowered depending on water levels. This was time consuming work. Communication was paramount with navigation industry so they would find out when the river would be closed and how repairs were proceeding.
One teleconference per day was led by the Corps navigation personnel communicating with industry and Corps offices on the progress of the dam raising or lowering and repair details. Then, another conference call was led by industry the same day to ensure barge tow operators understood any river closings. The Corps also provided an update on this call. This collaboration ensured that industry had all the details and their questions were answered.
The public affairs office distributed a news release to media on the status and also held a press conference at Lock and Dam 52. Interviews with subject matter experts took place. The media, in turn, broadcast TV news segments, radio interviews and newspaper articles on the backlog of tows, the status of dam 52 and the Olmsted project’s completion date of the summer of 2018. The public responded positively to the articles because reporters explained how navigation is a stealth industry – no one pays it much attention until something goes wrong. The public learned how important the towing industry is to the country. The information about the Olmsted project as the long-term solution was received positively and was included in the articles.
During the press conference the deputy chief of operations, Army Corps of Engineers Louisville, and the locks and dam supervisor, gave reporters information on the dam repairs. It was noted that the Olmsted Locks and Dam project would be operational in the summer of 2018.
The most frequent form of communication was the teleconference calls. The calls were crucial to developing and maintaining a positive relationship with stakeholders, who were primarily, the navigation industry.
The navigation industry represented by Steve Southern, Ingram Barge, Paducah, Ky. especially commented that these calls enabled timely information to be shared and for navigation industry to ask questions and raise concerns and point out issues.