Cannelton’s primary lock chamber reopens after dual miter gate replacement

USACE - Louisville District
Published Nov. 15, 2022
Updated: Nov. 15, 2022

After over a year of planning and 132 days of execution, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Louisville District resumed locking boats through the 1,200-foot lock chamber at Cannelton Locks and Dam in Cannelton, Indiana, Nov. 13.
The primary chamber was closed from July through mid-November due to scheduled maintenance and repairs. The temporary closure allowed the heavy capacity fleet of the Regional Rivers Repair Fleet, also known as R3F, to replace the miter gates and related equipment on each end of the primary chamber to increase reliability and efficiency on the inland waterways system.
“This quality project was completed ahead of schedule, under budget and safely,” said Waylon Humphrey, Louisville District Operations Division chief. “A huge thanks to the R3F, our Tech Support Maintenance Section, and our locks and dam staff who worked hand-in-hand to ensure this accomplishment.”
The Louisville District and R3F’s initiative consolidated this work from two seasons to one, minimizing the time the lock chamber had to be shut down greatly reducing impacts to industry.
“Completing this dual miter gate change out and floating mooring bitt replacements, in one low water season rather than two, reduced industry impacts by over four months in 2023, and allowed for project cost savings of over $10 million,” Humphrey said. “Most importantly, now that Louisville has demonstrated this is possible at McAlpine, and repeatable at Cannelton, we have laid the groundwork for the miter gate replacement program timeline to be cut in half.”
Louisville District Project Engineer Josh Saylor served as the project manager for the Cannelton Miter Gate Replacement project and led the project delivery team through almost two years of planning and successful completion of the project.
Saylor took the lessons learned from the similar 2020 McAlpine Locks and Dam Miter Gate Replacement project and applied them at Cannelton to shorten this project by two months. 
“His efforts have directly led to revolutionizing the miter gate replacement program for the region, and he has become a subject matter expert on the unique aspects of embedded quoin replacement and new gate installation,” said Craig Moulton, Louisville District Maintenance Section chief. 
The old miter gates, which were removed in July, were 55-60 years old and next in line for replacement on the Ohio River, according to Saylor. The project was a part of The Great Lakes and Ohio River Division’s miter gate replacement program, which was created to replace miter gates that would become increasingly prone to failure at the end of their design life.
“The gates were working, but beyond their design life,” Saylor said. “This project was intended to increase the reliability of Cannelton’s lock and prevent future lock outages.”
As with any project, there were some challenges.
“The challenge with all lock dewatering projects is that you have a tight window of time to complete the project,” Saylor said. “A lock dewatering project cannot extend too far past the project end date because there will eventually be a time where you will have to wait until the next low water/repair season.” 
In addition, coordinating between the major parties onsite was not always an easy task, considering the limited space on the lock wall for this type of work, according to Saylor.
“Also, the only way to get supplies and parts over to the main chamber was to be in the auxiliary chamber blocking industry traffic,” Saylor said. “So, the time to get our supplies was very limited.”
Although there were challenges, it was nothing the team could not overcome with good communication and teamwork. 
“We were able to get all of this work done on time using lessons from previous projects, getting parts on time and using our resources wisely,” Saylor said. “Projects get delayed sometimes for reasons outside of your control but any problems we could control were mitigated. Having a repair fleet that has a floating machine shop and material/parts on hand is a huge benefit to these projects because we were able to react quickly to many issues that popped up during the project.”
Having been in the same situations before from replacing the miter gates at McAlpine Locks and Dam in Louisville, Kentucky, the team was able to anticipate problems and issues that came up during the project, according to Saylor.
“A lot of times we were able to catch things before they even were an issue for the project,” Saylor said. “Lessons learned were huge in getting this project completed on schedule.”
Having all three parties, including the lock staff, contractors and the fleet, willing to work together also contributed to the project’s success.
“Our entire team learned a lot from this project,” Saylor said. “These past two miter gate replacement projects have been huge for the repair fleet and some of our project engineers because it has given them experience in almost every part of a lock repair.”
The Louisville District team is proud of the work they completed in 19 weeks. 
“Replacing four miter gates, replacing embedded wall quoins and pintle ball bases, rehabbing all of the machinery and repairing nine floating mooring bitt tracks out of 12 is a big accomplishment for our team,” Saylor said. “But this project was the same as McAlpine, and here we did it almost seven to eight weeks quicker.”
Saylor said that it is a great feeling to have the project completed. 
“I was able to be a part of all three major phases: design, fabrication and installation. It was great to take lessons I learned from the McAlpine Miter Gate Replacement project and apply them to this one,” Saylor said. “I am thankful for the opportunity to get to be the project manager on a really cool project. I am proud of the team. We had a lot of key members that stepped up to play a critical role to make this project be successful and for it to be completed on schedule.”
Cannelton Locks and Dam ranks 7th in tonnage for locks in the nation - with a three-year average of 51 million tons passing through the locks each year.