More Breakdowns Halt Ohio River Traffic

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Another breakdown at an aging lock and dam has halted river traffic on the Ohio in western Kentucky. It’s the second such interruption in less than a year for a stretch of river that carries some 90 million tons of cargo annually.

“A lot of commerce does go through that section and delays cost the industry money,” Army Corps of Engineers Louisville District public affairs officer Carol Labashosky said. “That’s a very, very important, crucial spot on the Ohio River.”


Labashosky said structures called wickets are the source of the problem at the Locks and Dam number 52 near Paducah, Kentucky. The wickets look like large teeth in the water and are raised and lowered individually to maintain a navigable level. High velocity flow around the end of the dam prevented workers from raising all of the wickets.

“In order to get these repairs in order we’ve had to shut down the Ohio river at Dam 52,” Labashosky said.

The construction process at Olmsted allows barges to pass while work is underway. (Nicole Erwin/ Ohio Valley ReSource)

That section of the river has been closed to traffic since last week and could stay closed for another week. Barkley Dam upriver will reduce the amount of water it releases to slow flow and assist repair workers. If that doesn’t work, the Corps could install a deflector above the problem area in order to make repairs.

Labashosky said the long-term solution is the multi-billion dollar Olmsted Locks and Dam under construction downstream. That major river control structure is slated to replace locks and dams 52 and 53 in late next year.