ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Ill. — Lock 15 has been drained completely for maintenance and repairs. The lock is located off the Arsenal and will be emptied until March 3.
Crews are spending the time inspecting the gates, lock walls and bubbler pipes to make sure everything is running smoothly.
In order to get the water out of the lock, bulk heads were put in place to stop water from flowing in and out. Once those were in place, it took just 24 hours to drain the lock completely. From there, crews are able to climb down the 30 feet below ground level.
Matt Thurman is the Chief of Maintenance for the Rock Island Corps of Engineers.
"Dewatering is one of the only times we can visually see what is going on below the water line. All of this structure is below water normally," Thurman said.
The dewatering process occurs every 30 years or so.
"That's how we can reliably maintain a nine-foot navigation channel on the upper Mississippi River," Thurman said.
The gates that open and close as barges make their way through the lock are one of the big things that receive inspection.
"They are very similar to like a set of French doors that you would have in your home. They open and close for every lock site on the upper Mississippi River," Thurman said. "So this is a great time for us to inspect these gates and see how they match up to the concrete."
The bubbler pipes will also get replaced in the time the lock is drained. The pipes are used to help filter floating debris away from the gates.
"When those gates are swinging open and closed, we don't want any debris to be around them because it can cause damage," Thurman said. "That could be floating trees, wood, ice, so the bubblers remove that."
The other big repair is made to the actual walls of the lock. Crews check for deterioration.
"We're working on saw cutting these perimeters of the (certain) concrete areas," Thurman said.
The dewatering process comes as the Rock Island Army Corp of Engineers is on schedule to receive a big chunk of change thanks to the recently passed infrastructure bill. $829 million will flow through the Rock Island Army Corps of Engineers office.
Congresswoman Cheri Bustos pushed for the legislation that will now help lengthen lock chambers up and down the Mississippi River.
"What you see right now, this allows 600 foot barges to go through. The barge industry needs these to stretch out to 1,200 feet. That way they don't have to decouple all of the barges," Bustos said. "That takes somewhere between two and a half hours, maybe three, four or five hours to do that. It'll cut that time to about 30 minutes."
It will help increase efficiency in moving goods up and down the river, as 60% of the country's corn and grain travel the channel on the way to it's destination.