News: Corps implements recreational boating lockage policy
Story by Laurie Driver
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – After receiving extensive input from the public, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Little Rock District will implement a new program for recreational boaters on 11 of the 13 Arkansas locks along the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System.
Beginning June 3, Arkansas locks, with the exception of Trimble Lock, near Fort Smith, and Ozark Lock, at Ozark, will be closed to recreational boaters from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Monday through Thursday excluding federal holidays. The closures allow personnel to perform preventive and scheduled maintenance. Trimble and Ozark Locks will continue to close from 8 a.m. to noon daily to all traffic for maintenance.
Commercial towboats along with government and emergency response personnel will be locked through during the maintenance windows if the lock is operational.
Recreational boaters are encouraged to use public boat ramps to access the upstream or downstream portions of the river to avoid possible extended waiting times due to scheduled maintenance.
The Corps developed the policy after hosting eight public workshops in 2012 and conducting a 30-day comment period to seek input from all users. The policy also takes into account special scheduled events such as bass tournaments, flotillas and civic celebrations.
“Additionally, the new policy will include using only one side of the miter gates when locking recreational vessels,” Balgavy explained. “Exceptions will be made to address safety concerns associated with groups of vessels, large vessels, and inclement weather. This change is expected to reduce lock cycling of and increase the life of the lock equipment.”
Groups needing to apply for a special event permit should contact the Russellville Project Office for events occurring upstream of Murray Lock and Dam or the Pine Bluff Project Office for events occurring downstream of Murray Lock and Dam. For events that occur on both sides of Murray Lock and Dam, either office may be contacted. The Russellville’s office number is 501-340-1758 and the Pine Bluff’s office number is 501-340-1309.
“During our public workshops we heard that our recreational boaters wanted the locks to be available weekends and during fishing tournaments,” Little Rock’s Chief of Operations’ John Balgavy said. “We couldn’t have accomplished this new strategy without the assistance and input from the users. We appreciate the public’s participation and believe the finalized policy accommodates everyone.”
The system has operated essentially without interruption except for routine scheduled maintenance for more than 40 years; however, the Corps is seeing trends of constrained budgets, increasing breakdowns and an increasing backlog of preventive maintenance. The implementation of daily maintenance periods should increase long-term availability of the facilities and reduce unscheduled outages.
“Our goal is to ensure the MKARNS remains a resilient, reliable, and sustainable system that optimizes the value of the system to all users and beneficiaries while making the best use of our available resources,” Balgavy said.
The policy can be viewed on our website at www.swl.usace.army.mil under “most requested.”
Recreation information can be found on the Internet at www.swl.usace.army.mil, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/littlerockusace, and on Twitter at https://twitter.com/usacelittlerock.