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Louisville District's dive deflector is USACE innovation of the year

Published Aug. 18, 2016
The project team for the Five Wicket Self-Supporting Dive Deflector was recently honored as a recipient of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Innovation of the Year Award.

The dive deflector is a specially crafted dive box placed in the Ohio River that deflects the river’s strong flows so divers can safely replace old wickets at Locks and Dams 52 and 53. The steel dive box supports itself by sitting on structures on the bottom of the river. 

“The purpose is to mimic calm water, like a swimming pool, so divers can work safely,” said Craig Moulton, chief, Louisville District maintenance section.

Unlike the new dive box, which distributes the force from the river to the concrete sill at the base of the wickets, the old dive box transferred the pressure to the wickets themselves. The condition of the dam wickets—built in the 1930s—have reached a critical point where they can no longer support the loads from the traditional dive boxes, especially at Locks and Dam 53. This called for a specialized piece of equipment.

The Louisville District Engineering and Operations Divisions designed it in-house, the Louisville Repair Station fabricated it, and the Locks and Dam 53 dive team used it with major success during the 2015 low-water season. The box sealed water flows better than any previous dive box and was larger, which led to increased efficiency and safety. The divers and the team were able to replace 64 wickets at Locks and Dam 53, the most ever replaced in a season. 

“It was a banner year for wicket replacement,” said Moulton. These repairs greatly improved the reliability of Locks and Dam 53, which will need to operate until Olmsted Locks and Dam is finished. The dive deflector box will be used to replace more wickets during the 2016 low-water season.

“This is engineering problem solving at its best,” said Col. Christopher Beck, Louisville District commander.