30-year construction of $3B Ohio River dam wraps up
- After 30 years, $3 billion and 45 million construction work hours, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers hosted the ceremonial opening of the Olmsted Locks and Dam replacement project along the Ohio River near Olmsted, Illinois. The locks and dam system, according to ABC News, is set to become operational in October.
- The Olmsted Locks and Dam, which was first authorized by Congress with initial funding of $775 million, is the biggest project for the Corps since the construction of the Panama Canal. AECOM, which provided construction, cost management and engineering services to the project, revealed some details about the construction process, which included the largest gantry crane available to lift the dam's precast shells — including a shell that weighed almost 5,000 tons — into place and one of only two special aqua diggers of their kind. Two 110-foot by 1,200-foot locks will lower or raise vessels to accommodate a 460-foot change in the river's water level.
- More goods travel through the Olmsted region of the Ohio River than in any other point along the U.S. inland navigation system. Taxpayer money and the navigation industry — through a diesel gas tax-funded trust — have split the costs, but the approximately $640 million in expected net benefits of the new locks and dam system will pay for the project after five years of operations. The old locks and dam will eventually be demolished.
Of the tens of thousands of dams in the Corps' National Inventory of Dams database, the Corps operates and maintains about 700, including six of the 10 largest U.S. reservoirs and half of all federally owned dams. However, like many other infrastructure assets in this country, money is short when it comes to funding repairs and upgrades.
Almost all of the dams the Corps manages are more than 30 years old, and more than half of those have passed the 50-year-old mark, which is when most dams will have exceeded their service lives. In 2016, the Corps had a $258 million dam budget but a $24 billion need to make all necessary dam repairs.
The Army Corps is overseeing a major repair right now in Oroville, California. In February 2017, the Oroville Dam's emergency and main spillways showed signs of damage after heavier than usual rains, forcing officials to evacuate almost 190,000 residents living downstream. Since then, California water officials have been overseeing repairs performed by Kiewit Corp. Crews reached the 50% mark on the second phase of work earlier this month, according to the Enterprise-Record, and are on track to have all concrete slabs placed on the main spillway by the Nov. 1. Work is also continuing on the emergency spillway.
- U.S. Army Corps. of Engineers Corps cuts ribbon on Olmsted Locks and Dam project
- ABC News 30 years and $3 billion later, one of America's largest civil works projects set to open on Ohio River
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