Lock Gate Move Begins Maintenance Project at Byrd Locks and Dam
6 December 2012
By Jim Ross
Some of the 290-ton moving parts of the Robert C. Byrd Locks and
Dam have not had major repair work since they were installed
nearly a quarter of a century ago. On Dec. 6, one of those parts
was taken out of the water for a long repair job.
The part in question was one of the lock gates, which open and
close to let boats and barges pass through the dam. The morning of
Dec. 6, the largest floating crane on the inland waterways was at
the Byrd locks to lift the gate and carry it to a nearby spot
where it could be worked on.
The Robert C. Byrd Locks and Dam is on the Ohio River about 15
miles south of Point Pleasant. It has two locks – one 1,200 feet
long and one 600 feet long – to allow boats to make the 26-foot
difference in the river created by the dam. The R.C. Byrd pool
extends up the Ohio River to the Racine Locks and Dam, which is
below Ravenswood, and up the Kanawha River to Winfield in Putnam
The locks are used heavily by barges hauling coal, limestone,
chemicals and petroleum-based products. The gate that was lifted
out of the water Dec. 6 was one of the upper gates on the smaller
lock. It is 61 feet tall and 58 feet wide. It weighs 290 tons.
Scott Kinzel, a mechanical engineer with the Huntington District
of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said several parts of the
gate will be removed and replaced or repaired.
If the weather is good on Dec. 7 – meaning among other things no
wind – the other upper gate in the small lock will be removed.
Kinzel said he expects the repair work on the two gates to take
all winter, considering there will be only a five-person crew
working on them.
Next year, the same work will be done on the gates to the main
(larger) lock, which is the one used by most commercial vessels.
"We're sort of practicing on this. We didn't want to take the main
chamber down and encounter problems," Kinzel said. "This is
already taking longer than we expected."
Gate failures have caused major traffic backups and shipping
delays at the Greenup Locks and Dam below Huntington and the
Markland Locks and Dam below Cincinnati.
Most of the locks and dams in the Huntington District are in good
shape, but because of some of them are 40 to 50 years old, they
are in need of major repairs. The Byrd locks are the newest locks
on the Ohio.
The procedure used at the locks on Dec. 6 was simple, but because
of the size of everything involved, it was done slowly and
carefully. The last part connecting the gate to the lock wall was
cut away, and then the crane slowly lifted the gate out of the
water. A boat maneuvering the crane and the gate hanging from it
backed up about 700 feet, moved 30 feet to the side and then went
forward 700 feet into the larger lock.
In a parking lot on land beside the lock, workers had laid out
large pieces of wood for the gates to be placed on. The crane
turned about 90 degrees and lowered the gate. Welders attached
some pieces to the bottom of the gate before it was lowered on its
side for repairs.
The first attempt to place the gate on its side failed when the
gate moved ahead and knocked over some of the wood supports. The
boat pushing the crane backed up a short distance so the crane
could put the gate on the second set of wood blocks, which it did