Repair work begins at Lock 10

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Dan Burger, top, and Kim Wenger, bottom, got a head start on repairs at Lock 10 last week, just before the official end of navigation season. Burger and Wenger are members of the Army Corps of Engineers maintenance and repair crew out of Fountain City, Wis. (Press photo by Molly Moser)

By Molly Moser

When a barge struck the wall just inside Lock 10 this summer, just as many others have over the past eight decades, the aging steel and concrete gave way and a very large piece broke free. There were no injuries and no harm was done to the commercial vessel, but repairs are now underway to fix the damage. 

Navigation season has ended, giving the Army Corps maintenance and repair crew out of Fountain City, Wis., the opportunity to start on the two-month project in Guttenberg. With just two vessels remaining on the 2017 navigation schedule, crew members Dan Burger and Kim Wenger got a head start on welding in preparation for the placement of bulkheads north of the lock. The bulkheads will make repairs possible by allowing the Corps to drain water from the upper section of the lock.

Damaged concrete will be replaced, and wall armor three-quarters of an inch thick will be added to protect the concrete beneath from the next 80 years of traffic passing through the gates of Lock and Dam 10. Lockmaster Sam Mathiowetz believes the steel that gave way this summer was original to the structure, having been placed when the lock was constructed in 1937. “In fact, most of the steel structures embedded into the concrete of the lock chamber are probably original,” he told The Press.

Overall, Mathiowetz says, the lock and dam at Guttenberg is in good shape. “The structure is old, so there is recurring maintenance,” he explained. Roughly 20 million tons of cargo pass through the lock each year, mostly consisting of farm products, coal, and chemicals. An average of 7,000 recreational crafts also use the lock annually. With all that traffic, the Corps has a strict timeline for repairs – and many are done during the off season so as not to impact navigation.  

“In the off season some of the biggest things we do, if not a large project like this, are smaller maintenance projects,” said Mathiowetz. Smaller projects require taking parts out of service for extended periods of time to do things like replace seals, swap motors, and run new wiring. Several years ago the entire lock was dewatered to sandblast and repaint gates and valves as well as repairing concrete and steel as needed. “Engineers determine what needs to be done and it’s all planned in a cyclical schedule,” the lockmaster explained.  

After navigation closes for the year, five of Lock and Dam 10’s 12 employees are put on furlough status. Five operators stay on, as do the equipment mechanic, the lockmaster, and an administrative support staff shared with Lock and Dam 9. The past two navigation seasons have been quite busy, and this year Mathiowetz hired an additional temporary operator to help out while some of the regular crewmembers went south to serve as hurricane support and were deployed with the Army National Guard.

Residents will notice cranes, crews, and other construction ongoing at the lock through February.

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