GRAND RIVERS, Ky. (Dec. 18, 2020) – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ commanding general for Civil and Emergency Operations visited the Kentucky Lock Addition Project Wednesday for a status update and rundown of challenges the project delivery team has faced, especially with high water impacts.
Project Manager Don Getty and Jeremiah Manning, resident engineer, briefed Maj. Gen. William (Butch) H. Graham about project delays and the way forward to progress construction of the new 110-foot by 1,200-foot navigation lock at the Tennessee Valley Authority project.
Manning said that challenging river conditions in 2018 and 2019 resulted in delays to construction progress of the cofferdam resulting in about one year of schedule growth.
The Corps of Engineers’ partner on the downstream cofferdam contract, Johnson Brothers Construction, has continued to aggressively progress the $68 million project despite these challenges. They are currently on track to complete major construction efforts on the cofferdam in March 2021 and hand over the work area to Heeter Geotechnical Construction, which is already progressing on the $58 million downstream excavation contract but is waiting for the cofferdam to be completed to be able to excavate materials near the cofferdam in the dry.
“The team has successfully avoided a significant amount of the time and cost impacts associated with the project schedule through the phased turnover of the cofferdam and other initiatives that have allowed both contractors to continue progressing their work,” Manning explained.
The general, who manages civil works projects across the nation, asked questions and took notes, and expressed interest in innovative work that could be shared across the Corps of Engineers enterprise. The project delivery team explained that construction of the downstream cofferdam has employed innovative and successful construction techniques that the team believes have not been employed anywhere else in the world.
Barney Schulte, the project’s lead engineer, talked about innovative placement of 10 concrete shells for the downstream cofferdam, which also forms part of the new lock wall. Johnson Brothers placed the final shell in February 2020 using a lift-in technique. This particular technique employed a specially designed floating gantry crane and four spuds to hold the shells in place on the prepared rock stream bed, a unique engineering achievement that the district believes has not been utilized anywhere else. He also noted that the sharing of innovative features of the project has already paid off at similar projects like the Chickamauga Lock Replacement Project in Chattanooga, Tennessee, which is also a Nashville District construction project.
“We work regularly with the Inland Navigation Design Center throughout our design process,” Schulte said. “They support us with technical reviews of our products and we also reach out to subject matter experts for assistance with design issues. In addition, we assist other districts with their navigation projects through this center of expertise.”
With future construction projects like Kentucky Lock on the horizon, Graham said it’s important to capture lessons learned and risk management strategies employed on this project, so they can be shared with projects through the new Inland Navigation Design Center.
“We want to take these lessons and make sure we are sharing them with the rest of the Inland Marine Transportation System and throughout the rest of the Corps of Engineers,” Graham said.
Manning said the team also shared current and upcoming challenges and ongoing design and acquisition for the next phases of the project and welcomed the opportunity to receive additional guidance and priorities directly from Graham. The Nashville District plans to bid the Downstream Lock Monoliths Contract in February 2021, which when executed would basically finish the new lock’s chamber and place all the remaining concrete.
Maj. Gen. Robert Whittle Jr., U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Great Lakes and Ohio River Division commanding general in Cincinnati, Ohio, and Joseph M. Savage, regional business director, interacted virtually in the discussions, and Lt. Col. Sonny Avichal, Nashville District commander, also provided input to inform Graham during the meeting.
After the briefing, the general visited the active construction site, and also looked at elements of the project completed in prior contracts including the upstream lock monoliths and upstream cofferdam. He also met with Area Lockmaster Caleb Skinner who talked about the challenges of operating an existing lock in the middle of a very active construction site.
The general said he appreciated being able to visit Kentucky Lock and meet with the construction team because it is important to understand the issues experienced in the field from the people who are delivering these construction projects.
“If you’re just looking at paper reports, it tells you one story. But when you get out here and talk to the folks who are trying to deliver you get another story,” Graham said. “I’m glad to be here today to meet these amazing professionals who are delivering all this. I just want to come out and see folks, say thanks for what they are doing, and just get an understanding of what’s on their minds.”
During the general’s visit, he also met with Matt Ricketts, president of Crounse Corporation, a towing company in Paducah, Kentucky, who is a member of the Inland Waterways User Board, a presidentially appointed board that advises Congress on the use of the Inland Waterways Trust Fund that pays for half of the Kentucky Lock Addition Project.
Graham also stopped at Kentucky Lock overlooking the ongoing construction and recognized John Bartusiak, Ross Cunningham, Barry Cunningham, Barry Arnett and Caleb Ayres for excellence supporting contracting, engineering, construction, and safety facets of the project.
(For more information about the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District, visit the district’s website at http://www.lrn.usace.army.mil on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/nashvillecorps, and on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/nashvillecorps. The public can also follow Kentucky Lock on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/kentuckylock.)