ROGERSVILLE, Ala. (Oct. 28, 2014) –The main Wheeler Navigational Lock is dry this week so work crews can inspect and repair underwater components.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District’s employees dewatered the 51-year-old 110-by-600-foot lock and closely inspected the 67-foot miter gates, culvert valves and all other areas of the lower lock chamber that are normally underwater.
Donald Dean, assistant operations manager of the middle Tennessee River and Lockmaster at Wheeler Lock, said the maintenance crew comb over everything to ensure it is in good working order and operational.
“Our engineers and Tennessee Valley Authority representatives are here taking a look at the main functional underwater structures that are continuously used in the chamber,” Dean said.
Dean added that they inspect and look for structural damage in the concrete, and for any wear in the seals, gates, and valves.
Structural engineers Cory Morgan and Barney Schulte, from the Nashville District Civil Design Branch’s Civil Structure Section, led a group charged to inspect, make reliability assessments and any required life-cycle inspection repairs.
After being lowered into the chamber, engineers visually inspected the gates, valves and inspected underneath the large miter gates.
“Access into the lock is critical and helps us make needed repairs,” said Morgan. “A visual inspection in front and underneath the gates allows the opportunity for us to see any damage or corrosion that may exist and it is better to do hands-on inspections rather than relying on underwater dive operations,” he added.
During the inspection of the gates, Schulte climbed inside the left front miter gate and located an area requiring attention and discussed it with the team.
“We try to do these inspections early in the dewatering cycles so that we can identify any repairs or problems that the operations crew needs to address,” said Schulte. “We want to identify any cracks in the miter gates; they tend to crack in the high stress zones and in transitions between templates.”
Schulte said areas needing repair are painted green and yellow so welders identify them. They prepare welding plans, and it takes two welders approximately two weeks to complete the work.
Dean said the crew still has to enter into the chamber to inspect the valves and culvert, and determine the necessary repair actions.
The currently drained Wheeler Lock is located in the northwest corner of Alabama and is one of 10 locks on the Tennessee River that are operated as a system of locks, which together makes it possible for recreational boaters to have freedom of movement and for commerce traffic to deliver goods and services across the region.
Corps employees operate and maintain TVA’s 10 locks on the Tennessee River. The Corps maintains 1,175 navigable river miles on the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers.
Wheeler Lock closed for dewatering Oct. 21 and is scheduled to tentatively reopen Nov. 13. The smaller auxiliary lock remains open to navigation traffic and will get a workout during the dewatering process.
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.