News: Watts Bar Lock gets maintenance makeover
Story by Leon Roberts
DECATUR, Tenn. – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District recently drained Watts Bar Lock here on the Tennessee River and maintenance crews are inspecting and making necessary fabrication and mechanical repairs.
Keith Holley, Watts Bar Lock facility manager, said the Cumberland River Operations Center maintenance team pumped out water from the lock, Oct. 13, and is currently working two 10-hour shifts daily to get the lock back in service by Nov. 3.
“We’ve got major repairs here,” Holley said. “We’re going to try to fix as much stuff as we can while we have this water out.”
Holley said the $1.5 million dewatering and maintenance project at Watts Bar has been on the Nashville District’s radar for several years, and all the necessary materials have been prepositioned to expedite repairs. “We want to do this dewatering so we don’t have a major breakdown and have an unplanned dewatering,” he said.
The work crews are visibly busy going over every inch of the lock to give it its much needed maintenance makeover.
Caleb Duren, a maintenance crewman assigned to the CROC Float and Plant Operations Division, said the poor condition of some of the metal parts in the lock exposed to water and air is noticeable.
“We’re working on replacing an A-frame in the upper fill-in valve,” Duren explained while a crew worked to remove the large and heavy metal piece with a crane. “So far it’s been running pretty smooth, so we’re on schedule to get everything completed on time.”
Holley said the Tennessee Valley Authority is also assisting the maintenance effort and is repairing or replacing metal pieces, sand blasting and repainting the lower lock gate.
So far this year, the Nashville District has also dewatered and repaired the Ft. Loudoun, Melton Hill, and Chickamauga locks.
“This is the last one for this year,” Holley said. “All the Nashville District repair crews are here making the repairs and they’re doing a great job. There’s a lot of work going on. They are away from home a whole lot and they probably don’t get recognized as much as they need to be.”
TVA began constructing Watts Bar Lock in 1939 and placed it into operation on February 19, 1942. It is 360-feet long and 60-feet wide.
Watts Bar got its name from nearby Watts Island and the fact that there were many sandbars in the area. The sandbars were a landmark known to early river pilots and appeared on all early charts.
In 1956, a highway bridge was built across the dam. Spanning the lock, the bridge connected U.S. Highway 27 with Tennessee State Highway 58.
(Editor’s note: The public is reminded that there is no auxiliary lock available at this location. Additional information can be obtained from the lockmaster at Watts Bar Lock at 423-334-3522.)