US Army Corps of Engineers
Louisville District Website

Work surges ahead at Olmsted during low water season

Published Aug. 18, 2016
Following the successful set-down of a navigable pass shell, tremie concrete is poured through the lift frame legs to tie the foundation pilings and shell together, thus making it a permanent feature on the river bottom. The tremie mix is specially designed to withstand the underwater environment encountered on the bottom of the Ohio river while maintaining a consistent flow and strength.

Following the successful set-down of a navigable pass shell, tremie concrete is poured through the lift frame legs to tie the foundation pilings and shell together, thus making it a permanent feature on the river bottom. The tremie mix is specially designed to withstand the underwater environment encountered on the bottom of the Ohio river while maintaining a consistent flow and strength.

The stars have aligned for the Army Corps of Engineers Olmsted Locks and Dam project on the lower Ohio River at Olmsted, Illinois.

The project team has leveraged optimal low water river conditions, mixed batches upon batches of concrete to make shells, and has activated all its workforce during the busiest year of construction. Funding has propelled the project forward.

The amount of river construction, shoreline activity, and massive equipment moving 4,000-ton pieces of the dam around is staggering. The dam is 80 percent complete. It nearly spans the entire river, and construction has begun on the left boat abutment, which is the feature that will tie the dam into the Kentucky bank. The dam shells sit on top of the adjacent shells connecting together with a “tolerance” of an incredible half inch. 

Integral to the dam are more than 100 glistening white wickets—parts of which resemble huge blow darts—that are now side by side in the lay-down yard. The dam’s navigable pass will consist of 140 wickets that will be manually raised and lowered by a wicket-lifter barge. When raised, the dam will hold pool allowing tows to safely navigate between Louisville District’s Olmsted and Smithland locks and Kentucky and Barkley locks in the Nashville District. 

Several coats of treated paint help protect the wickets because they are usually submerged. This paint process saves money which would otherwise be spent on maintenance. Interestingly, the wickets’ treated paint was originally the color gray. The team creatively posited that the final coat be white instead, making them more visible in the water to aid in operational safety and to give a better view of how they are operating. Many wickets are already installed.

The project is surging toward the finish line, and now is the time to consider a visit. The overlook provides a platform with a great view of the 180-acre site. There is no better place for Corps employees or the public to learn about engineering, construction and navigation than at Olmsted. Paducah, Kentucky, the largest city nearby, is where the project’s floating lock walls were constructed in 2002. 

There are so many cranes of different heights operating from working barges and land, that it’s hard to count them. More than 600 welders, carpenters, operators and craftsmen work in unison in 12-hour shifts like musicians playing a symphony. 

Jeremiah Manning, Olmsted resident engineer, summed it up when he said the Corps is truly finishing strong at Olmsted Locks and Dam. The project is scheduled to begin operating in 2018.