The Old River Lock in Lettsworth, LA, which is maintained and operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New Orleans District, re-opened to navigation Nov. 6, 2022.
The lock was dewatered and shut down Aug. 30 of this year, and it was scheduled to be closed to navigation for up to 75 days so maintenance and repairs could be performed to various components.
“[The maintenance and repairs are conducted] to make sure you don’t have any issues so the lock stays operational for navigation,” said Russell Beauvais, Old River Lock operations manager. “This is the northern-most point that shallow-draft navigation can get from the Mississippi River to the Atchafalaya and Black Rivers.”
Workers inspected the lock structure and repaired expansion joints throughout the chamber and valve tunnel system, said Kayla LeBlanc, assistant operations manager, Old River Lock.
Additionally, two new miter gates were installed on the Mississippi River end, and miter gate operating components were either refurbished or replaced. Each miter gate, which allows water-going vessels access to the lock, is 43 feet wide by 78 feet tall and weighs approximately 200 tons. The USACE Rock Island District’s floating crane, named the “Quad Cities,” removed the old gates and installed the new ones. Workers also installed new ladders and staff gages within the lock chamber.
The lock was originally scheduled to re-open to navigation Nov. 12, but since work on the chamber was completed early, this allowed to Army Corps to open the lock nearly a week ahead of schedule.
“The earlier date is attributed to hired labor’s hard work, dedication, and efficiency in combination with long periods of good, dry weather. Plus, no hurricanes in our district,” said LeBlanc.
Army Corps locks typically undergo partial dewaterings every 10 to 15 years to perform inspections, maintenance and repairs as necessary. The Old River Lock was partially dewatered in 2008 to replace the two miter gates on the Atchafalaya River side, and again in 2010 to replace the two miter gates on the Mississippi River side. The miter gates that were installed on Mississippi River side in 2010 were removed this year to be refurbished for spares and/or use in future maintenance dewaterings.
Leblanc said the last full dewatering of the Old River Lock was performed in 1978 to inspect its components and make repairs to the lock chamber. She also noted that the total cost of the maintenance and repairs during the lock dewatering this year is approximately $9 million.
The Old River Lock was constructed in 1963 and is located at Mississippi River mile 304 Above Head of Passes. The lock is a feature of the Mississippi River & Tributaries (MR&T) Old River Project and provides for the passage of navigation between the Mississippi, Red and Atchafalaya Rivers. The lock chamber itself is 75 feet wide by 78 feet tall and 1,200 feet long.
Most of the traffic passing through the lock consists of petroleum, chemicals, agriculture, and aggregate products, and approximately 15 towboats push commercial barge traffic travel through the lock each day.