Mobile District fleet personnel continue to remove debris from the chamber at Demopolis Lock on the Tombigbee River. (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers/Chad Brumelow)
Locks and Dams

Corps Awards Demopolis Repair Contract

The Mobile Engineer District is marching ahead with repair work at Demopolis Lock on the Tombigbee River, near Demopolis, Ala., where a portion of the upper miter sill failed January 16, damaging a portion of the floor of the lock chamber in the process.

“The district fleet has begun removing debris from the chamber,” said Ryan Reich, project manager for the district. “They have to do that as tailwater allows.”

Reich said equipment on site is unable to reach the floor of the chamber once the tailwater exceeds about elevation 50 feet, although the team is investigating ways around that, if needed.

Reich, speaking during a weekly stakeholder conference call, also announced that the construction modification contract for the repair work was awarded February 10 to R&D Maintenance Services, the district’s maintenance contractor. With that contract in place, R&D Maintenance can now move forward with equipment rentals, formwork procurement and subcontractor hires for lock repairs.

Corps and R&D Maintenance officials continue to look at the feasibility of increasing concrete lift heights and reducing curing times in order to get the lock back into normal operations sooner.

So far, the district is sticking to the mid-May estimate for reopening Demopolis. Col. Jeremy Chapman, commander of the Mobile District, said the repair timeline will become clearer once the repair team starts pouring concrete.

“The biggest thing is speed,” Chapman said. “We are doing everything that we can to speed this up. As we work through the details of how we’re going to build and construct this solution and get this lock back open, it’s going to take a couple of weeks before we get all the materials orders and contractors linelined up to get the work done.

“I think probably by mid-March, once we get all this finalized, we’ll have a much better picture of the schedule, other than just saying May for opening,” he added. “Right now, that’s a good estimate, but I want to get a better date for our partners.”

Chapman said the focus is to be expeditious, while also delivering a solution “not just for this year but, hopefully, for a few years to come.”

Demopolis is the first lock and dam below the confluence of the Black Warrior River and the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway (Tenn-Tom). Currently, vessels above the lock with cargoes bound for the Port of Mobile or elsewhere on the Gulf Coast, and vice versa, must connect with the Tennessee, Ohio and Mississippi rivers by way of the Tenn-Tom.

Mitch Mays, administrator of the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway Development Authority and president of the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway Council, said he and Wynne Fuller, president of the Warrior-Tombigbee Waterway Association, are developing a survey for operators, ports and terminals to quantify the economic impact of the unplanned closure at Demopolis.

“Everyone recognizes that this is essentially an economic development question,” Mays said. “This closure could be the difference between a plant that’s profitable or not profitable for the year.”

Mays said the survey report will communicate the total impact on the Tenn-Tom and the Black Warrior-Tombigbee Waterway and will not contain specific information from individual companies.

Caption for photo: Mobile District fleet personnel continue to remove debris from the chamber at Demopolis Lock on the Tombigbee River. (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers/Chad Brumelow)