A big chunk of wall is missing from the guide wall and Locks and Dam 15 in Rock Island, and more will be torn down within the next year.
“We have road traffic and rail traffic, airlines, and the river navigation,” said the U.S Army Corps of Engineers Chief of Rock Island District’s Operations Division Mike Cox. “They’re all vital components of the national transportation system. The navigation system is of significant value to the nation.”
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineering notice cracks in the guide wall in 2014, and since then has been monitoring the wall. The cracks in the infrastructure cause the walls to move, both horizontally and vertically. Cox says the worst sections have moved about a foot and a half horizontally.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers decided last Wednesday to preemptively remove 120 ft. of guide wall. Equipment arrived Saturday, and they began the removal of a 120 ft.
“Very good coordination, very good efforts on everybody’s part,” said Cox. “It’s been very successful.”
Lock and Dam 15 was built in 1934, and Cox says that it originally had a design life of 50 years. Now, over 80 years old, it needs repairs.
It’s not the only one. Cox says almost all of the locks and dams along the Upper Mississippi River System are having infrastructure problems, due to the degradation of concrete and steel.
Removing the section of guide wall was a preemptive measure. The way it was demolished, the work took place behind the wall and the barge traffic was not affected. If the wall had fallen on it’s own, it would have been catastrophic for bridge traffic along the river.
“We would have had a 30 ft. long piece of concrete that would have had to be demolished in the water, blocking traffic for maybe up to a month.”
The plan is to tear down and rebuild the rest of the wall as well. Cox says they are estimating that to cost $15 million, which would come from the U.S. Corps of Engineer’s budget and a work plan that allows for projects like this.
In 2016, almost 24 million tons of cargo passed through Lock and Dam 15, which has an estimated value of 3.6 dollars. The guide wall is essential for the safe passing of barges through the lock and dam. Because of this, fixing is remains a priority.
“The navigation system throughout the United States is a critical transportation component,” said Cox.
The goal is to begin construction within the next year.