Corps Reducing Lock Service

by Ryck Lydecker

Photo of an inland waterway lock
Boaters will be affected by the Corps of Engineers plans cut lock operations.

In October, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began implementing a cost-cutting plan to reduce operating hours at 63 inland-waterway locks around the country, most of which are used by recreational boaters as well as commercial tow boats. The plan includes a score of locks on the Tennessee, Cumberland, Black Warrior and other rivers that are integral to the Great Loop cruising route around the Eastern states. Also included for reduced hours of operation are locks that recreational boaters depend upon in the Great Lakes region and on the Snake River in Washington State, plus those serving the Dismal Swamp Canal on the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway and Florida’s Caloosahatchee River.

Several locks that see very little or no commercial traffic, like those on the Monongahela River in West Virginia and the Allegheny in Pennsylvania, are in danger of being closed, although some on the list that have “substantial recreational traffic” could be operated on weekends and holidays only.

Using a formula based on commercial tonnage, locks that are now “full service” could be cut to one or two shifts per day, or to operation only at certain times each day, or by appointment only. In developing the new policy, the Corps relied on 2010 lockage figures. But tonnage can fluctuate year-to-year and some of the 2010 figures may not be accurate, when compared to industry tonnage records, reports Amy Larson, president of the National Waterways Conference.

“Our goal is to be sure the data that the Corps is basing its decisions on is correct,” Larson said. “But we also want to ensure that each Corps of Engineers district is empowered to develop solutions that fit their regional needs. We don’t want a national, one-size-fits-all approach.

“And yes, this will greatly impact recreational boaters.”

View an interactive map showing the 63 affected locks and, where available, a link to homepages for details at