Tow Boat Traffic Resumes at Ohio Lock After Repair

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
22 December 2016
By Tim Grant

Tow boat traffic was restarted Saturday at a lock near Wellsville, Ohio, five days after it was suddenly shut down due to the failure of a hydraulic system.

While the lock is typically open 24/​7, it has been operating on a limited schedule from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. since Dec. 17 thanks to a temporary fix to the hydraulic system that opens the gates to the lock and then fills and empties it of water.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has made an emergency request for $3.8 million in funds to pay for a long-term repair.

The closure of the New Cumberland locks and dam about 8 miles south of Wellsville put a halt to navigation on the Ohio River upstream and downstream of the lock, creating a backlog of nine vessels that were forced to moor along the river waiting for the lock to reopen.

“These vessels were carrying coal and petroleum waiting to get delivered to power plants and other locations,” said Jeff Hawk, spokesman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Pittsburgh.

The Corps was able to “lock” six vessels when it opened Saturday and another six on Sunday.

Mr. Hawk said the typical time it takes to lock a vessel is 45 minutes. But currently it takes about 15 to 30 minutes longer, due to complications caused by the system failure.

He said the lock staff determined the hydraulic system that operates the main chamber’s four 170-ton miter gates and the emptying and filling values had failed. A repair crew capped and tested the damaged hydraulic lines and will continue to monitor the situation.

Tim Grant: or 412-263-1591.