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Lock Operator Recognized For Quick Action

A lock operator at Kentucky Lock received the U.S. Army Meritorious Civilian Service Medal from the commanding general of the Great Lakes and Ohio River Engineer Division.

Maj. Gen. Robert Whittle Jr. presented the medal October 3 at Kentucky Lock in Grand Rivers, Ky., to Joshua Mullins for taking quick action when he noticed a barge holding a $5 million concrete cofferdam shell severely listing on the shoreline of the Tennessee River just upstream of the navigation lock.

Whittle noted in the award citation that Mullins’ knowledge, initiative, and quick thinking the evening of March 9 saved the barge, preventing a multimillion dollar catastrophic failure. In presenting the medal, he said this level of award has to be approved by a two-star general, so they are not awarded very often.

“What Joshua did of course saved us a ton of money,” Whittle said.  “He was observant and took the right actions.”

The Nashville Engineer District has been working to install 10 concrete shells that will be part of the downstream cofferdam and the permanent lock wall for the Kentucky Lock Addition Project. When completed, the downstream coffer dam will make it possible to excavate and then construct the new lock in dry conditions. Each rectangular shell is approximately 46 feet wide, 51 feet long, and 33 feet tall with concrete walls about one foot thick. They weigh well over a million pounds each.

Lt. Col. Sonny Avichal, Nashville Engineer District commander, said an open hatch cover caused the barge to take on water as high winds caused waves to roll onto the deck of the barge.

“Joshua knew the huge and costly concrete shell could have slid off the barge into Kentucky Lake. He called the helper boat for assistance, and they arrived in enough time to avert tragedy and save the shell,” Avichal said.

The cofferdam is part of the Kentucky Lock Addition Project at Kentucky Dam, where a new 110- by 1,200-foot navigation lock is under construction adjacent and landward of the existing 110- by 600-foot lock.

Jeremiah Manning, resident engineer for the Kentucky Lock Addition Project, said he is very thankful Mullins paid close attention to his surroundings when he saw the barge listing. His effort saved the government and taxpayers lots of money and time that would have been lost moving the project forward.

Mullins thanked the general and said on behalf of the team he is honored to be recognized.

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