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Louisville District, Regional Repair Fleet partnership revolutionizes Ohio River infrastructure maintenance

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Louisville District
Published Oct. 31, 2023
Great Lakes and Ohio River Division Commander Brig. Gen. Mark C. Quander visits John T. Meyers Locks and Dam

Great Lakes and Ohio River Division Commander Brig. Gen. Mark C. Quander visits John T. Meyers Locks and Dam in Mt. Vernon, Indiana, Sept. 12, 2023, to receive an update From Waylon Humphry, Louisville District Operations Division chief and Stephen Porter, Regional Rivers Repair Fleet chief, on the miter gate replacement project.

The. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Louisville District works in partnership with The Great Lakes and Ohio River Division’s Regional Rivers Repair Fleet, also known as R3F, on major maintenance and repair efforts for the district’s locks and dams on the Ohio and Green River and for the district’s 17 Flood Risk Management Dams across Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio. 
“Louisville District’s partnership with the Regional Rivers Repair Fleet is vital to the reliability, resiliency and efficiency of the district’s navigation and flood risk management infrastructure,” said Shawn Kenney Louisville District Operations Division Technical Support Branch chief. “Our goal is to ensure reliability of our system through proactive maintenance and repairs before

deficiencies have operational impacts. With aging and deteriorating infrastructure and resource constraints, there is a trend toward a fix-as-fails maintenance strategy.”

The Louisville District and R3F have been working together for years to improve maintenance processes.
“R3F is the preferred resource provider for performing much of this major maintenance work on our infrastructure because the in-house capabilities provide seasoned expertise with the unique work and flexibility if differing site conditions are found once construction is in-progress,” Kenney said. “The adaptability of R3F provides an enhanced level of risk management that would not be possible if all major maintenance work was contracted out.”

Having the ability to mobilize in-house fleets improves the resiliency to restore infrastructure to service quickly in the event of an emergency, Kenney added.
R3F was formed in 2016 when individual river district repair fleets previously located in Louisville, Huntington, Pittsburgh and Nashville were consolidated. This standardized core work and fleet management, safety risk management, equipment maintenance, training and staffing. 

More recently, the Heavy Capacity Fleet of the RF3 completed miter gate replacements at McAlpine Locks and Dam in Louisville, Kentucky, and Cannelton Locks and Dam in Cannelton, Indiana, to increase reliability and efficiency on the inland waterways system. 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 2022, and allowed for project cost savings of over $10 million,” said Waylon Humphrey Louisville District Operations Division chief. “Most importantly, now that Louisville and R3F have 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.”
The Louisville District and R3F have been paving the way driving toward greater efficiencies with the fleets, according to Kenney.

“The team is pushing the envelope on efficiency and proving successful through diligent planning, aggressive scheduling practices, and proactive risk management,” Kenney said. “The prime examples of this include projects at McAlpine Lock and Dam in 2020 and Cannelton Locks and Dam in 2022, which set a new standard for completing miter gate replacements on both ends of a lock chamber in a single year.”

These projects successfully reduced the timeframe from two five-month closures over two years to a single five-month closure and reduced the budget from $47 million to $37 million. 
“These efficiencies allow USACE to move on to the next critical needs on the long list of backlogged maintenance,” Kenney said.  “Also, the reduced closure times benefits navigation industry and its customers to the tune of millions of dollars. 

The R3F team is currently working with the Louisville District at John T. Myers Locks and Dam in Mt. Vernon, Indiana, to rehab the miter gates in the 1,200-foot lock chamber. 
“At John T. Myers Locks and Dam, the Heavy Capacity Fleet is attempting to reduce the scope of work from 18 weeks, which was the duration the last time a similar project was performed, to 10 weeks,” Kenney said. “This Louisville District and R3F team realizes that pushing ourselves outside our comfort zone is prudent and rewarding; we are embracing the notion that we were not made for comfort, but for greatness.”