NR 17-032: Barkley Dam releases being reduced Thursday to support repairs at Dam 52 on Ohio River

Published Sept. 12, 2017

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Sept. 12, 2017) — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District announces that releases from Barkley Dam on the Cumberland River in Grand Rivers, Ky., will be reduced to 6,000 cubic feet per second beginning 4 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 14 to support repairs to wicket gates at Dam 52 on the Ohio River in Brookport, Ill.  The Louisville District reports that the dam is currently not operating as designed, which has caused river traffic on the Ohio River to be suspended.

The Barkley lockmaster will cease lockage for commercial navigation once the tailwater drops below elevation 298.4. Lockage of recreational traffic will be at the lockmaster's discretion when the tailwater drops below elevation 298.4.  Park rangers at Lake Barkley will monitor conditions and may close the right bank tailwater boat ramp below Barkley Dam to recreational vessels if conditions necessitate.  Depending on the progress of repairs, the low tailwater elevations at Barkley Dam could continue for up to three weeks.

Dam 52 is one of the last two remaining 1920’s era locks and dams on the Ohio River that uses a system of wicket gates during times of low water to maintain a stable pool for commercial and recreational navigation.  These timber wickets are laid down on the river bed during times of high water and traffic simply passes over them; however, during low water, they are raised manually by personnel aboard a steam barge to raise the dam and create a pool for navigation.   A span of nearly 700 feet of wicket gates is currently unable to be raised, so the dam is not able to maintain a stable pool for navigation.

The Tennessee Valley Authority is also reducing its releases to 6,500 cfs at Kentucky Dam nearby on the Tennessee River this Thursday.  The Kentucky lockmaster will cease lockage for commercial navigation once the tailwater drops below elevation 299.0. Lockage of recreational traffic will be at the lockmaster's discretion when the tailwater drops below elevation 299.0.  

The reduced flows from Smithland Dam on the Ohio River, from Barkley Dam on the Cumberland River, and from Kentucky Dam on the Tennessee River are intended to provide favorable conditions for repair work to the wickets.  Shallow water levels will exist downstream of the dams with reduced flows, which present hazardous conditions for mariners.

The Louisville District produced a video on the operation and importance of Dam 52 which can be viewed here: 

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When Olmsted Dam is constructed in 2018 on the Ohio River between Illinois and Kentucky, 17 miles upstream of the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, it will replace Dam 52 and Dam 53. This will help reduce river closures.

The Corps is working with the navigation industry, government officials and stakeholders to continue to communicate the status of this fluid situation. The public will be notified when repairs are expected to be completed and navigation operations are expected to resume.

(The public can obtain news, updates and information from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District on the district’s website at www.lrn.usace.army.mil, on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/nashvillecorps and on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/nashvillecorps.)
Contact
Bill Peoples
615-736-7161
chief.public-affairs@usace.army.mil
or
Lee Roberts
615-736-7161
chief.public-affairs@usace.army.mil

Release no. 17-031