Lock and Dam 52 failures costing millions, slowing river industry

BROOKPORT, IL – The Ohio River is closed at Lock and Dam 52 once again. That’s something we’ve been hearing over and over again in the past few months.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers say the water is too high to lock vessels through “paired with the unconventional manner in which the wicket Dam now has to be operated prevented project staff from lowering wickets to control river elevations.”

Lock and Dam 52 costs $2.5 million to $3 million a year to maintain on average. In fiscal year 2017 — from October 2016 to September 2017 — the Army Corps of Engineers has spent $13.2 millions in repairs.

A working bear trap

They say that money comes from an internal budget for repairs and sometimes has to be moved from other areas. The $13.2 million does not include the most recent project, which will be in fiscal year 2018.

This situation didn’t just start this month. Many river workers turned to social media to call for more funding after what they say has been 10 years of problems.

You can look at this live river map and see where vessels are waiting. There is a pileup between Cairo, Illinois, and Paducah. The 90-year-old dam continues to cause problems, and this closure won’t be the last.


One river worker who works for Hunter Marine says they’ve been waiting to lock through for about a week now.

About a month ago, the broken wickets closed river traffic for eight days.  A few weeks later, the dam closed again for a day.

Just last week, an emergency project was put together to fix a failed bear trap, which keeps water on one side of the dam. That was fixed just three days ago.

River traffic is at a halt.  The Corps says they are doing their best managing a failing system. People online say you can’t win at that lock.

Olmsted Locks and Dam will replace Lock and Dam 52 and 53. That is set to open October of 2018 and has been in the works for nearly 20 years.


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