By Leon RobertsAugust 4, 2014
COUNCE, Tenn. - When a gate at Pickwick Lock malfunctioned early this week, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District Dive Team demonstrated its quick-response capability when it organized a dive into the lock to troubleshoot the situation just hours after being notified.
The dive team happened to be setting up for an inspection of the Wilson Auxiliary Lock in Florence, Ala., when it received the call that the gate at Pickwick Lock was shaking and not closing properly on the upstream side of the dam.
Gerald Choat, lockmaster and facility supervisor at Wilson Lock, and supervisor of the dive team, quickly made the decision to deploy to Pickwick Lock to check the condition of the underwater components including the miter seal, and to look for possible debris that could be caught in the gate.
By early afternoon, the dive team had all of its equipment in place and a dive plan approved. Dustin Kelley, a diver and mechanic at Wilson Lock, donned his dive gear and a crane lowered him into the water where he dove into the depths of Pickwick Lock to perform the inspection.
"I was looking for some kind of debris in the way of the gate... I made my rounds back and forth to make sure there was nothing in the way," Kelley said after the dive. "I came up here to dive so that we'd know for sure there was nothing under water to keep the gate from mitering all the way or coming into recess all the way."
Brian Brewer, facility specialist at Pickwick Lock, said the lock operator experienced problems over the weekend and the gate malfunctioned again early on Monday. He said he knew the dive team had to come and perform the underwater inspection, and so they made the call to the dive team.
"We came out, got on the river wall gate, and inspected and rode it," Brewer explained. "And while we were riding the gate [as it opened] it started vibrating real bad and making a terrible noise. So at that point I called my supervisor and we got the dive team in route."
As the diver inspected underwater the dive team supervisor monitored everything on a computer monitor from a camera on the diver's helmet. After multiple passes along the miter seal and around the gate itself the team concluded there were no obvious issues that could be found that could have caused the malfunction.
Choate and Jeff Neely, a dive team member and lockmaster at Cheatham Lock on the Cumberland River in Ashland, City, Tenn., then inspected the mechanics of the gate above the water. The repair team watched closely as the gate opened and closed.
Choat said after the diver spent an hour in the lock the maintainers applied grease to the gudgeon pin in the pintle area and the vertical strut pin.
"We assumed that it was something under the gate and the gate was dragging. That's what it felt like," Brewer said. "We didn't find anything that was obvious so the diver came out of the water. At that point we started looking for stuff above water - nothing obvious there. We're still hearing some miter noise in there. Maybe something has worked itself out."
The maintenance team at Pickwick Lock plans to monitor the gate and to investigate possible mechanical issues that could have caused the gate to malfunction. But now they know what is going on and have eliminated possible issues underwater.
Choat said he was very pleased with the dive team's response that demonstrated the value of being able to respond quickly to situations that affect the ability to operate the navigation locks on the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers. He added that dive team and the staff at Pickwick Lock teamed up to investigate, and the effort to get it done that same day was awesome.
Other Corps members involved in the dive and troubleshooting the malfunction of the gate included Brad Wilson, electrician at Pickwick Lock; and Dino Wiley, diver and lock operator at Wilson Lock.
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