The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

June 26, 2013

Changing the Locks

By Amy Kent Herald Staff Writer
The Clinton Herald

---- — FULTON, Ill. — Lock and Dam 13 in Fulton is undergoing some changes this week, forcing the locks to shut down over the next few days.

The upper miter gates on the main lock were replaced by temporary gates in May 2012. After standard maintenance checks and structural adjustments, the original gates are coming back.

“The originals are 75 years old and needed some repairs. They were ready to go back in April but because of high river levels and a few other factors, we weren’t able to replace them at that time,” Lockmaster John Mueller said.

A crew of about 22 Corps of Engineers employees were on site Tuesday, including crane operators, supervisors and trained diving specialists.

“There are specific jobs, but in an operation like this, we all work together,” Supervisor Andrew Barnett said.

The labor process began early Tuesday morning but heavy rain and thunderstorms postponed the crew from proceeding.

“We were hoping to get a good jump on it but the rain delayed us for about two hours,” Mueller said.

He estimated that without rain, the locks would be closed for approximately 12 hours each day, adding the weather could easily extend that time frame.

The original gates on Lock and Dam 13 have been in place since its construction in 1938. It has been nearly 20 years since their last required servicing.

“The gates are worked on as a need-be basis, but it is very seldom,” Mueller said.

According to Mueller that is a good thing.

The gates, made of steel, are 25 feet tall, 61 feet wide and weigh approximately 78 to 100 tons.

Barnett and his crew however, are used to the work. Based out of Rock Island, Ill., they travel as far north as Dubuque and as far south as Hannibal, Mo., servicing different types of lock systems along the Mississippi River.

“They require service over time, usually caused by weather, wind and usage. It is just something we do,” Barnett said.

The gate-changing routine is just simply that for the crew — routine.

“Really, the most difficult part in all of this is waiting for the weather to improve, everything else is pretty standard,” Barnett said.