Locks and Dams

Corps Seeks Input For Scheduling Tenn-Tom Lock Closures

Justin Murphree, operations project manager for the Mobile Engineer District’s Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway, hosted a conference call April 5 with waterway stakeholders to outline a pair of lock closures planned for later this year and to gather input for when to schedule the work.

The maintenance closures will take place at Glover Wilkins Lock near Smithville, Miss., and at the next lock below that, Thad Cochran Lock, in Amory, Miss. Work at both locks, Murphree said, will be pretty standard, with inspections, sandblasting and painting, gate painting and crack repair planned. At Wilkins, work will include resurfacing miter and quoin blocks, while at Cochran Lock, the Corps will need to replace the blocks at the lower end of the lock.

Thirty-day closures are planned for both Wilkins and Cochran locks. Murphree said he is optimistic that the work at Wilkins could wrap up sooner than that, although replacing the miter and quoin blocks at Cochran makes an early finish there less likely.

Murphree said his team usually conducts lock closures in June or July, but some funding and supply issues necessitated a later start at Wilkins and Cochran. In this case, the Corps and its maintenance contractor can get started no sooner than August. With that in mind, Murphree asked stakeholders to let him and his team know what time range might work best for waterway users.

“We want to have the best situation for everybody,” Murphree said.

Representatives from both Domtar, a paper, pulp and packaging company, and Cooper Marine & Timberlands referenced the upcoming lock closures on the Illinois River. Customers in that area will be unable to receive barge loads of mulch and other cargoes for the entire summer. Once those locks reopen on September 30, pent-up traffic and the impending winter season will cause further scheduling stress. Those two stakeholders pushed for a closure at Wilkins and Cochran in the August-to-September range.

A representative from Hunt Refining Company said “later is better” for the refinery, which makes extensive use of the waterway.

“As you know, summer is an incredibly busy time for a refinery,” the Hunt official said.

One person on the call requested the closure not to be too late in the year due to the fact that “Loopers,” recreational boaters traveling the Great Loop, typically come through the Tenn-Tom in November.

“Overall, these comments are pretty consistent,” said Murphree, who later explained, “We have these planned lock closures to try to prevent unplanned closures.”

Murphree said he expects to announce the start date for the closures sometime the second week of April. Stakeholders who wish to share their thoughts on the timing of the closures may do so by emailing Murphree at justin.v.murphree@usace.army.mil.