Three years of improvements done No. 3
As little as three years ago, Lock & Dam No. 3 near Red Wing was "absolutely terrible" for barges to navigate, Upper Mississippi Waterway Association President Greg Genz said.
"Nobody wanted to come down this lock in high water," he added.
Now, following a $70 million improvement project, navigation through the lock is much safer and easier, lock officials said.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District recently finished construction on the three-year project. Officials unveiled the changes at a dedication ceremony and open house Friday morning.
"Almost immediately, the industry made comments that we can get in the channel easier," said Michael Price, commander for the St. Paul district of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. "That's the bottom line. Safety is paramount."
Previously, a natural bend in the river caused currents that pulled barges and boats away from the lock channel and toward the dam.
"It's the worst place to put a lock and dam on a bend in the river," Price said.
Since the 1960s there have been at least 10 accidents at Lock & Dam No. 3, Price said.
"And there were way more close calls than you can imagine," Genz added.
Improvements to Lock & Dam No. 3 included the construction of an 862-foot guide wall extension and a closure dike that reduces adverse currents near the guide wall as well as channel dredging.
The project also included improvements that will "reduce the risk of failure to the dam itself," Price said, including the construction of concrete spillways and nine channel closures.
The improvements were completed "in the wet" or without shutting down the lock, Price said. This meant that the construction project didn't slow down navigation on the Mississippi River.
The project was funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and generated 130,000 hours for workers, said contractor Bob Beckel, of Edward Kraemer and Sons. That generated about $4 million in wages.
In addition, Price said the project was completed without any recordable injuries to crewmen.
"It really is a job well-done," Beckel said.
Chief of Operations for the St. Paul district Bruce Bolden said the renovations should alleviate the navigation issues for the design life of the improvements.
"Hopefully... it will be 50 years before we need to come back in," he said.