Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Locks and Dam 53 — past tense

It looks like we can refer to Locks and Dam 53 in the past tense now.

Yesterday the Louisville District of the U.S.Army Corps of Engineers posted on its Facebook page that the final 43 wickets at the Olmsted Locks and Dam had been raised. Last week, the Waterways Journal article on Olmsted mentioned that the deconstruction of 53 had begun.

Today the Louisville District issued a navigation notice that at 9 a.m. Central Daylight Time tomorrow, the Ohio River at Locks and Dam 52 will be closed to traffic for about 48 hours.

The closure will allow dam workers to lower the wickets and transition the pool to Olmsted. The navigation pass will open to traffic once the Olmsted pool has stabilized, the corps says.

Locks and Dam 52. At least 13 percent of the dam is inoperable.

Before I found this information, I had been checking the lock and dam tonnage reports. Traffic had been moving through the Olmsted locks for several months as work on the navigable pass was completed, but no tonnage statistics were compiled and released. But sometime late last month, the tonnage and queue reports for 53 ended and they began at Olmsted.

At the Olmsted media day availability back in July, Corps personnel said 53 would have to be removed as soon as possible, as it would be a hazard to navigation. Removing 52 will have to wait until next year or 2020 perhaps 2022, they said.

I asked the colonel for permission to visit 53 to get photos before it was taken out of service. The dam was down, so there would be nothing to see. But 52 was up, and I was allowed inside the fence to get the photos that have were the centerpiece of several entries on this blog.

Perhaps this is the end of 52 as well. Mariners will rejoice. We river history fans will root for whoever comes up with a viable plan to preserve the buildings and other remains at 52 and 53 as much as possible for posterity’s sake.