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Lock and Dam 4 in Alma undergoes $4.5 million repairs

Published: Jan. 26, 2021 at 4:40 PM CST
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ALMA, Wis. (WEAU) - Out of sight, out of mind, for most, the lock and dam system along the Mississippi River keeps our lives moving.

“It controls the river a little bit more in order to make sure that the barge traffic can get through instead of always fighting these currents,” says Joe Schroetter with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

More than 10 million tons of stuff passed through Lock and Dam 4 in Alma last year.

Schroetter says with that much movement some downtime is necessary.

“This lock is over 90 years old and what we’re looking at here is making sure that it runs properly pretty much year to year,” he says.

Every 15 to 20 years, the locks are drained for repairs.

“We take and empty the lock chamber and we get a chance to do maintenance on our gates, on our concrete and it’s kind of like doing maintenance on your car,” Schroetter says.

“To keep up with the mechanical moving parts on the gates and then our paint coating systems to protect the gates from corrosion, submersion, freeze, thaw and all that stuff,” says Chris Stai with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Stai says the project costs about $4.5 million. In addition to keeping the lock in working order the maintenance also means several part-time jobs.

“Seasonal staff from the locks and dams and dredge crews that normally would be furloughed this time of year, we hire them on,” Stai says.

Using the shipping’s slow season from December to March, means barge traffic isn’t impacted.

“That’s because the river freezes as to where the more southern you go, the river doesn’t freeze,” Schroetter says. “They would have to stop traffic to do this kind of work.”

Hard work that helps keep the state’s economy running.

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