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Teamwork helps district repair damages to Lock and Dam 5A gate

Published Sept. 3, 2013
MINNESOTA CITY, Minn. -- Crew members from St. Paul and Rock Islands districts install a temporary gate at Lock and Dam 5A,near Minnesota City, Minn., May 23.

MINNESOTA CITY, Minn. -- Crew members from St. Paul and Rock Islands districts install a temporary gate at Lock and Dam 5A,near Minnesota City, Minn., May 23.

MINNESOTA CITY, Minn. -- Crew members from St. Paul and Rock Islands districts install a temporary gate at Lock and Dam 5A,near Minnesota City, Minn., May 23.

MINNESOTA CITY, Minn. -- Crew members from St. Paul and Rock Islands districts install a temporary gate at Lock and Dam 5A,near Minnesota City, Minn., May 23.

A tow heading downriver struck and severely damaged a miter gate at Lock and Dam 5A near Winona, Minn., May 16.

The damaged gate was still operational but in a limited capacity and action needed to be taken to make the lock fully operational.

“Our top priority was keeping the lock open,” said Bryan Peterson, lock and dams section chief. “Another incident, even a minor one, could have closed the lock down until the gate could be replaced.”

Engineers with the St. Paul District contacted their counterparts at Rock Island District for support. The Rock Island District has specially designed sectional miter gates that are adjustable and available for just such an incident. While the widths of most of the lock chambers on the Upper Mississippi River are the same, the depths vary. The river depth determines the gate height.

Rock Island’s team mobilized to Lock and Dam 5A, bringing the matching pair of replacement gates, a heavy-lift crane and crew within a few days after the accident. Maintenance teams from both districts prepared both the damaged and spare gates to be replaced. The biggest concern, said Peterson, was whether the spare gate would miter correctly with the existing, non-damaged gate. Miter describes the position and angle formed when the lock gates are in the closed position.

“You have to remember, we’re talking about using a temporary replacement gate that was built fairly recently and trying to make it work with something that was built more than 80 years ago,” Peterson said. “We can measure and look at drawings all day. Until we get the gate installed, [we don’t] know if it will work.”

The temporary gate was installed May 23. “This was a great example of a successful, collaborative effort,” Peterson said. “By pulling the resources readily available in the Rock Island District, in one week, we went from a seriously damaged miter gate that could potentially have had serious impacts on both recreation and commercial navigation to a fully operational facility.”

The damaged miter gate is being repaired by both St. Paul and Rock Island district personnel at Rock Island’s service base in Pleasant Valley, Iowa. Repairs are estimated at $1.4 million and should be completed early this fall with the repaired gate reinstalled prior to the river freezing.