Corps Does Checkup On Webbers Falls Lock And Dam

Wednesday, September 2nd 2015, 6:23 pm
By: Tess Maune

About $4 billion worth of goods travel through our area each year on the Arkansas River, which puts $300 million into the economy.

But the navigation system is closed right now, so inspections and repairs can be made to Lock and Dam 16.

There's a constant flow of water pumping out of Lock 16 in Webbers Falls and going back into the Arkansas River on the other side.

“This lock has been in operation for 45 years now,” U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Tulsa District Navigation Manager Rodney Beard said.

Beard said in those 45 years, the lock has worked as it was designed.

But even so, Colonel Richard Pratt says it needs a checkup every once in a while.            

“It's important to make sure you maintain the structural integrity of the gates in the lock so that you don't have an unscheduled closure because something broke and you didn't know it was showing a lot of wear and tear,” Pratt said.

Before inspections began, a dive team came in to clean up the silt, sand and debris that had built up over the years.

That allowed a temporary dam to be sealed in tight, and once that work was done, the Corps of Engineers drained lock 16.        

“This lock is 600 feet long, it's 110 feet wide and 54 feet high. It took about 14 hours for the water to drain and it's been 11 years since it was last inspected like this,” Pratt said.

Spray paint marks spots on the gates in need of work.

“Those gates are heavy, you're looking at close to 400,000 pounds hanging out there,” Beard said.

But the problems aren't anything out of the ordinary for a structure that was built in 1970.

“We found stress cracks, a lot of corrosion and our goal for this de-water was basically come in and get a good inspection,” Beard said.

The channel was supposed to be closed for 21 days, but because summer flooding took away about two months of barge business, it's been cut back to six days.       

“We don't want to impact our stakeholders,” Beard said. “We push close to 12 million tons of products through these locks annually, estimated at close to 4 billion dollars.

Beard says the Corps will repair some of the small issues now, then drain the lock again next year for some of the more time-consuming fixes.               

The Corps says the plan is to have water back in the lock and the navigation system up and running again by Friday.