It may be off season for navigation, but it’s on season for the Eastern Area Office as they ramp up construction. “There’s two major contracts we have going on,” said Scott Baker, Winona resident engineer. “We have the anchorage contract, which is about $9 million, and then we have the mooring bitt contract that was awarded for $20 million.”
The anchorage contract is for Lock and Dams 5A, 8 and 10 in Fountain City, Wisconsin; Genoa, Wisconsin; and Guttenberg, Iowa, respectively. New, stronger anchorages are being put in prepare for new, heavier miter gates. To meet current standards, the newly installed gates will be 50% heavier than the old gates. Anchorages are to a miter gate what a hinge is to a door, Baker explained.
The work began in late November when navigation season came to a close, and the contractor has been working 5-6 days a week with 12-hour shifts ever since. The new anchorages themselves are first fabricated at a machine shop – Steward Machine in Birmingham, Alabama. The machine shop has been working 24 hours a day for 7 days a week to maintain their schedule of delivering a total of 18 anchorages to three locks. The subcontractor sent six of their welders from La Crosse, Wisconsin, to assist in this effort before the navigation season opens in March.
One of the challenges is that the lock and dam concrete is more 90 years old and it is in variable condition, Baker explained. Despite its age, the concrete is in good condition for the new anchorages to be installed, Baker assured. Replacing the anchorage involves drilling down in the concrete 14 feet below the surface, installing 2-inch anchor rods and then grouting in place – providing a bond between the anchor rods and the existing concrete. The new anchorages are then set on the anchor rods, bolted in place and then the whole anchorage assembly is grouted as well to bring it flush with existing concrete.
In addition to setbacks from workload, the ongoing pandemic and delivery problems, working in winter has posed its own unique set of challenges. “There are a lot of safety issues in the winter to consider from the cold temperatures to high winds up to 50 miles per hour a few weeks ago,” Baker said.
Tow rail mooring bitts
The second major contract for the Eastern Area Office is the tow rail mooring bitt contract at Lock and Dams 4, and 7 in Alma, Wisconsin, and La Crescent, Minnesota. Work incudes removing the top 4 feet on the upper guide wall.
A mooring bitt is a device that tows attach to that assist when a tow is pulled out of a chamber. As the tow goes upstream, the mooring bitt guides the barges close to the wall to keep it under control. “We need something very strong because bad weather conditions and high water can put a lot of force on those barges and pull it toward the dam. We want to make sure we have a secure system that operates smoothly and is safe for the lock operators and operations staff,” Baker said.
“With both contracts underway, we have a great team staying busy this winter to ensure we meet all the requirements for the safety of our crew and facilities,” Baker said.
Working simultaneously on two contracts provides a great learning process and mentoring opportunity for newer employees, Baker said.
“The biggest learning curve is problem solving,” he said. “Understanding there’s always going to be issues and learning to manage them the best we can and communicate with the contractor and each other is really a team effort.”
Teamwork and communication are the key to success of this dual-contract operation, he added.
“I can’t be at every site, so I expect everyone to be responsible and, in the end, successful and proud of the work they’ve done.”