March 12, 2018
The Pittsburgh Engineer District began a scheduled three-month maintenance project last week that will result in considerable delays at Emsworth and Dashields locks on the Ohio River.
The work requires the closure of both facilities’ primary lock chambers. Auxiliary chambers will remain open at both sites. The district has warned mariners that long delays can be expected throughout the work period, which is projected to end June 8.
Emsworth Locks and Dam is at Ohio River Mile 6.2, and Dashields is at Mile 13.3. Both facilities have a 600- by 110-foot main chamber and a 360- by 56-foot auxiliary chamber.
The closure of the aging primary chambers is necessary to address critical maintenance needed to reduce the risk of unscheduled closures and maintain the reliability of the navigation facilities, the district said in an announcement. The Corps will install new maintenance closure systems for the main chambers during the closures.
The Corps instituted lockage procedures that were developed in cooperation with the Waterways Association of Pittsburgh. The procedures, which are designed to help reduce some of the wait time for tows, include:
• tows are not permitted to add or swap barges, change crews or take on stores once the tow’s turn has been established;
• lockages will be performed as a standard series of three tows in each direction;
• because of approach conditions including outdrafts and short river guard walls, users are recommended to restrict their tows to no more than a triple lockage; and
• due to the location of the tow haulage equipment and the length of the upper and lower middle walls, tow configurations of less than a 50-foot width will require self-help.
Additionally, during the closure period, commercial vessels will be given priority over recreational vessels when locking through. Recreational boaters should plan accordingly during the start of the recreation season, the district said.