Demopolis Lock, Dam potentially closed until mid-May

Published 4:44 pm Wednesday, February 7, 2024

On Jan. 29, the Army Corps of Engineers issued an update on the state of the Demopolis Lock and Dam. The dam has been closed since Jan. 16 when the upper miter sill broke off.

In an earlier update, officials with the Mobile Engineer District estimated repairs would take around 30 to 60 days, but the Corps’ latest report estimates that the dam may not reopen until mid-May.

A District Crisis Response Team recently met to discuss and develop a course of action. The team discussed two options, one that involved pouring concrete and the other was putting in a steel cover plate. The team eventually decided that pouring concrete would be the best solution.

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“They’re going to have to work in the wet and cast the concrete under water,” said Wynne Fuller, president of the Warrior-Tombigbee Waterway Association. “The chances for the lock being overtopped is really high, which is why they went with pouring concrete in the wet.”

Although there is no definitive time for the Demopolis Lock to open, the District is shooting for May for the lock to be fully repaired and fully operable.

“The team is still in the design process, and a detailed timeline and schedule are forthcoming, but initial estimates are to have the lock open sometime in May,” said Stephen Beams, Chief of the Mobile District’s Technical Support Branch. “This estimate is likely to change as the design team matures its solution. Another issue is this time of year and the high probability of seasonal high-water levels on the river that can affect the repair work.”

According to the Corps, an on-site floating plant will lower forms into the lock chamber and will be assisted by divers. The forms will be supported with buttresses attached to the lock floor. The concrete forms will be poured in five-foot increments, with a required seven days for curing between pours. A 14-day curing period will be required after the final pour.

While the dam is closed, operators on the Tennessee-Tombigbee and Black Warrior-Tombigbee waterways are traveling along the Tennessee, Ohio and Mississippi rivers and the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway to go to and from Mobile.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will host recurring waterway users calls to provide updates on the status of Demopolis Lock on Wednesdays at 2:30 p.m. starting Feb. 7 until further notice.