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Lock And Dam 52 Wickets Raised, Tows Transiting Lock

Since the dam wickets were raised at Ohio River Lock 52 on January 6, tows have been transiting through both lock chambers. The Louisville Engineer District had as many as 52 tows in the backed-up queue the week before the dam raising, with an estimated wait of three days. According to Louisville District spokesperson Carol Labashosky, that queue had been reduced to 42 by January 10.

Dam 52 is a low-lift wicket dam consisting of 487 timber and steel wickets stretching across the Ohio River at Mile 938.9. During high water, boats traverse over the submerged wickets; but during low water, each wicket must be lifted individually by workers in special boats in a tedious and sometimes dangerous procedure.

Locks and Dams 52 and 53 have been plagued by repeated unscheduled closures recently as the district struggles to repair and maintain the aging systems. Lock and Dam 52 used to average between $2 million and $3 million a year to maintain, but in fiscal year 2017—extending from October 2016 to September 2017—the Corps said it has spent $13.2 million in emergency repairs on the lock, plus $2.5 million to build an emergency rock dike.

The two locks and dams were first authorized in the River and Harbor Act of 1909, and were completed in 1928 and 1929. They are both scheduled to be replaced by the downstream Olmsted Lock and Dam, which will become operational in the summer of 2018.

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