News: Barkley Lock goes dry for scheduled inspection, major maintenance
Story by Leon Roberts
KUTTAWA, Ky. – Work crews here continue to pump out water today from Barkley Lock as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District performs scheduled inspection and major maintenance repairs.
The lock is closed to navigation traffic until 6 p.m., Aug. 30, 2011, when it resumes normal operations.
Mark Abshire, facilities supervisor for Barkley and Kentucky Locks, said it’s important to do periodic maintenance on the lock structures to ensure they operate properly with as little downtime as possible.
“What we do prior to a dewatering is a dive crew will come in and do an assessment of everything below the waterline, or the items that are submerged most of the time, to determine what kinds of repairs are needed,” Abshire said.
The underwater assessment for Barkley Lock has already been accomplished, and Abshire said it is being coupled with repair requirements above water as his team makes repairs during the ongoing lock closure.
“The priority is to get everything done that is normally submerged like repairs to any concrete, the laterals we have at the bottom here, grease lines that go down below the water line, things that we cannot get to under normal circumstances – that’s priority number one,” Abshire said.
The work crew consists of people with multiple skill sets who can perform the full spectrum of maintenance procedures required to revitalize the lock.
Ralph Rhodes is a lock mechanic who possesses a wide variety of expertise that helps the Corps to get the maintenance done properly but in a timely fashion so navigation can resume. He said the repair team is made up of a lot of good people, which makes his job easier.
“We go in and fix what needs to be fixed,” Rhodes said. “We have to drain the lock – dewater it. Then what repairs need to be made we simply go in there and do it. There’s replacing seals, replacing grease lines, work with concrete … we’re going to remove a sector gear. We’ll do some work on it. We’ll do some work on the valves, just a little bit of everything. It’s hard work and sometimes it’s really indescribably dirty. But it has to be done and I’m proud to say that I’ve done it.”
Jeff Neely, a lock and dam equipment mechanic has already been doing electrical work and is a member of the dive team that inspected the lock prior to it going dry for this inspection and major maintenance lock closure.
He said the team began working on site, Aug. 9. “We started mobilizing in, getting the pumps set up, the electrical wires run, and pulling slot fillers… all the preliminary work.
“It’s a neat job,” Neely said. “You never get bored. One day you might be running a crane. The next day you might be wiring up a control circuit. The next day you are diving. The next day you might be doing some welding, fabricating. So you are a jack of all trades.”
Abshire said welders are currently repairing the vertical lift gate on the upper end of the lock so it can pass inspection and be used to hold back water, which allows repair crews to work and swing open the upper miter gates to perform maintenance.
The entire maintenance crew is working very hard this month to ensure that navigation can continue in September and operate safely for years to come, Abshire added.
“These guys do great work every day. We’ve got a lot of experience – many, many, many years of experience in a multitude of skills within this crew,” Abshire said. “We’ve got cranes everywhere. We’ve got a lot of certified crane operators. We’ve got electricians here. We’ve got lock and dam equipment mechanics. You’ve got a multitude of skills here and these guys bring it all to bear to get the work accomplished.”
The navigation lock is located on the left bank of the main dam structure and was opened to navigation in July of 1964. It is 800-feet long and 110-feet wide. The gravity fill-and-empty system exchanges 37,500,000 gallons of water per lockage. The lock is operated 24 hours per day.
No auxiliary lock is available at this location. Additional information can be obtained from the Barkley lockmaster at 270-362-9131.