KUTTAWA, Ky. (June 16, 2011) – The horizon atop Barkley Dam features recreational activity and the intriguing contours of the lake. Conversely, the view straight down over the rails is steeped with motion as a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District work crew is installing and inspecting the dam’s new spill gate chains.
The old chains are brazen and rusty from decades of exposure and service. They are being replaced with new silver chains that are primed and ready to raise and lower the spill gates for years to come.
“The chains themselves have a life expectancy of roughly 25 years, and this year the chains have reached a point where they are not only unusable, but bring potential hazards to other parts of the dam,” said Jamie Holt, a project specialist. “They’ve needed replacing for quite some time.”
Due to the May 2010 flood, Barkley Dam received $1.5 million in flood stimulus funds to replace the spill gate chains and to utilize plant personnel, the fleet, and the repair party to install them.
The Warioto, a Corps of Engineers barge, lent its support and positioned a crane where it could transport personnel and tools down into the tight workspace.
Holt described the process as being similar to replacing a bicycle chain.
“The crane provided by the Corps lifts up the spill gate, giving the workers time to set up braces to keep the tension off of the spill gate chain. Once they dismantle the old chain the crane hauls it out and drops in one of the new ones so the crew down below can hook it up,“ Holt said, “All of this they can do down there because the first thing we do is set up a temporary wall to hold back the lake’s water giving them dry conditions to work under, so to speak.”
Originally each of Barkley’s 12 gates were expected to take up to six weeks to repair, but the crew at Barkley Dam is replacing the two chains of a gate in one week.
“It’s always nice to run ahead of schedule, this allows us a little buffer room in case something happens to hold us up,” Holt added. At the current rate the project is going, he estimates completion by early to mid August.
The new spill gate chains are only the beginning of a campaign of projects launched to improve the quality of Barkley Dam.
“Once we get done with these chains, contractors are coming down to re-weld the parts of the dam that need it and also give the dam a new paint job,” Holt explained.
Each chain link is 18-inches long and the entire chain is 80 feet in length. Two of the 12 spill gate chains have been replaced and there have been minimal snags in the replacement process. Despite the work on the spill gates, Barkley’s generators and lock remain fully operational.
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