Olmsted Lock and Dam project nearly complete

LA CENTER, KY — After more than 20 years, the Olmsted Lock and Dam is finally close to being complete.

The new lock and dam system will open in October and replace Locks and Dam 52 and 53. A tour of the the new structure was held Wednesday.

“It’s amazing, really amazing,” James Trevathan said, looking on as people toured the facility.

Trevathan works for barge transportation company C&C Transportation. He says the the Olmsted Lock and Dam is different from other systems.

“Where they let the water in and out is different, because they are raising it different with those wickets,” he said.

The new wickets will make a difference in keeping the water levels where they need to be, so barge tows can move through the river better —benefiting the local economy.

“There are some shippers in our industry that are avoiding coming that part of the Mississippi River, because they don’t want to go through 52,” said Martin Hettel with American Commercial Barge Line.

Hettel said Lock and Dam 52’s recent problems and backed up river traffic show the need for Olmsted to open soon.

“The sooner we can get Olmsted operational, the better the reliability is for moving the economic engine of this, which is the water system,” Hettel said.

Trevathan said, from his experience on the river, he has seen just how important water transportation is.

“To me, it’s greater than the railroad, because the availability for the grains the farmers, especially the farmers,” Trevathan said.

The price tag for Olmsted Lock and Dam is hefty. When completed, it’s estimated the cost will total a little over $3 billion.

Whatever the price, the structure will play a major role in keeping the local economy and river traffic moving forward.

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