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Marine Board tours Olmsted Locks and Dam

The Marine Board, part of the Transportation Research Board of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, toured the Olmsted Locks and Dam in Olmsted, Illinois May 15 as part of their three-day spring meeting held in Paducah, Kentucky.

The Marine Board is a source of expertise on maritime transportation and technology which identifies research needs and provides a forum for exchange of information relating to new technologies, laws and regulations, economics, the environment and other issues affecting the marine transportation system.

Before their arrival at Olmsted, the stage was set by Mike Braden, Engineering Design Branch chief, and former Olmsted Division chief, during a presentation in Paducah highlighting “Inland Waterways Infrastructure Projects and the Bigger Picture.” Using Olmsted Locks and Dam as a case study the presentation focused on how current policies affect project delivery of inland waterways infrastructure projects. 

“These funding constraints play a significant role at the operational level on project delivery,” said Braden, who briefly described the challenges that the mega-project faced and the key factors that allowed for its completion. 

“Efficient funding enabled the team to turn this project around,” Braden said. “That day in 2013 [when the project received the Post Authorization Change Report] was a big day for the project. You can see what our delivery teams can do when you turn them loose.” 

Attendees had the opportunity to see the project — the Corps’ largest since the construction of the Panama Canal — later that afternoon. 

“We’ve been following it for a number of years so this has been quite a treat to actually see it come to fruition,” said Rajiv Khandpur, U.S. Coast Guard, Waterways and Ocean Policy chief.

Olmsted Lockmaster Shane Byassee, provided the group of 27 marine board members and federal sponsors with an overview presentation on site before leading a tour to the wicket test pit and control tower. He explained that due to its location at the hub of the inland waterways system more than 90 million tons of commodities pass through Olmsted annually.

“Understanding the great importance of the inland waterways system, the Marine Board planned this trip to Olmsted to examine this infrastructure which we understand to be the lynchpin for commerce on the system,” said Scott Brotemarkle, Marine Board Program director. 

In addition to the tour on site Louisville District operations staff served as representatives for panel sessions during the course of the three-day meeting. Shawn Kenney, Locks and Dams Assistant Operations manager served on a panel discussing institutional considerations for the inland waterways. Tim Fudge, Operations Division chief, participated in a panel discussion facilitated by Marine Board Member retired Lt. Gen. Thomas Bostick, who served as the 53rd Chief of Engineers for USACE. The discussion which focused on system infrastructure challenges and opportunities.