Montgomery Point Lock & Dam, the southernmost lock and dam on the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation, is set to see a major repair in August and September to miter gates currently operating in "active failure mode."

Montgomery Point Lock & Dam, the southernmost lock and dam on the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation, is set to see a major repair in August and September to miter gates currently operating in "active failure mode."


Barge traffic is not expected to be affected during the 38-day repair as long as water levels remain steady on the Mississippi River during that time of corn harvest shipments. But there is a potential for delays if the amount of sediment and debris under the lock is heavy. The same repair was also made in 2012.


The repairs to the 10-year-old, $237 million lock and dam near Tichnor were made possible due to recent funding approval in the Corps’ 2015 budget, according to Col. Courtney W. Paul, commander and district engineer for the U.S. Corps of Engineers Little Rock District.


"The gudgeon pins that are a part of the ‘hinge’ at the top of the river-side miter gates are in an active failure mode," Paul wrote at a LinkdIn M-KARNS message board on Feb. 7. "The greaseless bushings that were used on them turned out to not be a good thing. The bushings tend to seize around the pin, and then that assembly grinds away on the top girder of the gate."


Gene Higginbotham, executive director of the Arkansas Waterways Commission, stated that the Corps chose the time frame based on river level averages in the past decade and expected the lock repairs not to have a negative impact on navigation. The amount of snowfall and precipitation being seen now in the upper Midwest and the Ohio Valley will help keep the Mississippi River levels up, he added.


"These repairs are very important for the reliability of the system," Higginbotham wrote in a email Tuesday. "Should we see the low levels on the Mississippi River like we did in 2012 then the closure could have an impact on the Arkansas corn crop that traditionally moves downriver during that time frame. … Our Commission will continue to watch the river levels as we move closer to scheduled closure date."


Marty Shell, president of Five Rivers Distribution in Van Buren and Fort Smith, said that if water levels remain steady he "will be OK." The lock is designed to allow barges to move over the spillway while work is being done, he noted.


The river water falls under their minimum 115 feet elevation mark an average of 10 days, or 28 percent of that 38-day window. This included 2012 and six other years which had no days in the 38-day window below the 115 feet mark, according to Paul.


If the water is above the minimum 115 feet elevation mark, barge traffic passes over the gates in the navigation pass spillway to minimize lockages saving time and money, Paul added.


"If water levels on the Mississippi are low than we could see some delays, but we are hoping for good weather and the Corps getting in and out quickly as well," Shell wrote in an email.


Paul noted in his message that no matter how much pre-work is done, there will be a "significant amount of cleaning work to do with the divers" so the closure can be set.


The lock and dam was built because of periodic low-water conditions on the White River channel at its entrance to the M-KARNS. Montgomery Point was designed to maintain a year-round navigation pool and eliminate the need for major dredging in the area.