US Army Corps of Engineers
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Olmsted Project - Frequently Asked Questions

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The current cost estimate without inflation at the October 2011 price level is $2.918 billion.

2020 for the locks and dam to be operational and 2024 for the completion of the project, to include the removal of locks and dams 52 and 53.

Construction is complete on the twin lock chambers and dam construction has begun. We have gained a great deal of experience since construction of the dam began, especially during the first season of setting the precast shells in the river. The estimates for the out‐year contracts have been updated and the project cost has just gone through very rigorous cost and schedule risk analysis by Corps of Engineers and independent outside experts. In the case of schedules, they are heavily dependent on the weather, river conditions and available funding.

The authorized cost at the 1987 price level was $775 million.

The Olmsted locks and dam project is about 45 percent complete and about $1.4 billion has been expended as of Sept. 30, 2011.

The cost increase is attributed to a low initial cost estimate, differing site conditions, increased construction duration and market conditions. The low cost estimate was driven by the uncertainties associated with the innovative in‐the‐wet construction techniques. The sequence of construction events is critical because of the small window of opportunity to work in the wet during low water season. The Olmsted Locks and Dam project is an extremely complex and challenging construction project that is located where the Ohio River elevation can fluctuate up to 50 feet annually. In addition to the river width and stage variability, there are a number of other challenging conditions, such as sand waves that move across the river bottom, that make this project difficult to execute.

The completed project will have net annual benefits of approximately $640 million – returning more than the construction costs in less than five years. The Olmsted project is a reinvestment in our nation’s future. This location is one of the most crucial points in the nation’s navigation system – the hub of the inland waterways navigation system. On an annual basis, approximately 90 million tons of waterborne commerce passes through this area. If Olmsted is not completed, this project will account for the 28 Mar 2012 highest loss of benefits to the nation of all inland navigation construction projects to date.

We are building a quality project that is within the authorized scope. Nothing is superfluous. Through each step, we look to pursue the most cost effective method of accomplishing the project requirements. We pursued the in‐the‐wet construction because our analyses, which involved experts across the nation, determined this was the most cost effective and quickest method. Experience has shown the current in‐the wet construction method is more expensive and time consuming than originally envisioned and we are considering alternate construction techniques.

The Corps performed an extensive study comparing cofferdam versus in‐the‐wet construction methods. The report was prepared by consultants who had the necessary expertise. The recommendations of the consultants were then thoroughly reviewed at all levels within the Corps. We selected the in‐the‐wet method based on the information at the time that showed:

*lower costs

*shorter construction time

*less negative impact on navigation and

*fewer impacts to the environment.

Experience has shown the current in‐the‐wet construction method is more expensive and time consuming than originally envisioned and Corps’ headquarters has directed us to build a team of regional and national experts to consider alternative construction techniques such as building cofferdams for in‐the‐dry construction.

Through FY11, the project received about $1.4 billion.

In FY12 the allocation is $150 million.

The president’s proposed FY 2013 budget includes $144 million.

This project is cost shared 50/50 with the Inland Waterways Trust Fund, which has limited resources.

The rehabilitation of the locks and dam 52 and 53 would be more expensive than building one project to replace both of them. They are beyond their design lives and unreliable. Failures of locks and dams 52 and 53 would result in millions of dollars of increased transportation costs just as delays completing Olmsted result in millions of dollars of lost transportation savings.