By Lee Roberts
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Dec. 8, 2017) – The acting commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Great Lakes and Ohio River Division received briefings and updates at Nashville District construction sites this week to build a strong understanding of the projects.
Col. Paul J. Kremer made stops at the Chickamauga Lock Replacement Project, Center Hill Dam Safety Rehabilitation Project and Kentucky Lock Addition Project Dec. 5-6 to observe the construction and to interact with project managers and resident engineers.
Kremer said he put boots on the ground to see the ongoing construction and engaged directly with district officials to learn what the true challenges are for the nation’s vital infrastructure projects. Putting eyeballs on the projects helps him with understanding the issues and with communicating more effectively with leadership and stakeholders, he said.
Early on Dec. 5, Kremer visited Chickamauga Lock on the Tennessee River in Chattanooga, Tenn., where a concrete aggregate problem poses structural issues. The colonel also observed ongoing construction of the Chickamauga Lock Replacement Project where excavation is underway to construct a 110-foot by 600-foot lock to replace the existing lock.
Lockmaster Cory Richardson gave the colonel a tour of Chickamauga Lock. Adam Walker, project manager, then took the colonel to a vantage point overlooking the coffer dam where the district is removing 100,000 cubic yards of rock to make way for future concrete placements for a new lock chamber. He also pointed out where 44 rock anchors along the river wall of the coffer dam are being installed by the contractor, Heeter Geotechnical Construction.
Walker said the colonel seemed intrigued by the history of the problems with the existing lock and the amount of instrumentation present that the Corps and Tennessee Valley Authority utilize to monitor the lock.
“He was interested in hearing about the partnership between TVA and the Corps and how the two agencies work together on the project,” Walker said. “He was pleased to see the progress on the replacement lock project, especially the blasting progress located immediately downstream of the existing dam.”
Accompanied by Lt. Col. Cullen Jones, Nashville District commander, Kremer then headed to Center Hill Dam on the Caney Fork River in Lancaster, Tenn., where he received updates on the Center Hill Dam Seepage Rehabilitation Project.
Linda Adcock, project manager, informed the colonel that while modifications at the main dam are complete, work is underway to install a roller compacted concrete berm next to the saddle dam located on the shoreline of Center Hill Lake, not far from the main dam.
Kremer walked on top of the saddle dam to see the excavation for the RCC berm, and also inspected Center Hill Dam’s spillway gates and associated equipment to understand operability issues and requirement for a study to address the technical challenges and identify solutions.
“The bottom line is we’re here to deliver the program,” Kremer said. “What that means for all those around the Center Hill Dam area is that we’re committed to get this facility up to standard, as safe as we can possibly make it, and as soon as we possibly can in the timeline.”
Adcock said the colonel expressed interest in the design, construction and potential operation of the saddle dam fuse plug, which is a unique emergency spillway. The fuse plug was designed to act as a dam until overtopped during a very rare, high lake level. When overtopped, the fuse plug erodes to pass water downstream and keep the main dam from overtopping.
“Colonel Kramer understands the importance of maintaining our aging infrastructure, such as the 70-year-old spillway gates, to keep our projects functional and reliable,” Adcock said. “He also stressed the importance of keeping our commitments to stakeholders, to our partners and to the public.”
On Dec. 6, Kremer toured the Kentucky Lock Addition Project on the Tennessee River in Grand Rivers, Ky., where the Nashville District is constructing a new 110-foot by 600-foot lock to reduce commercial barge delays, which are some of the highest in the Ohio River System.
Don Getty, project manager, explained that Kentucky Lock is the gateway to the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers, where the commercial barge industry moves 57 tons of commerce valued at $10 billion annually.
Getty led Kremer on a tour of the upstream lock monoliths and to where work is ongoing to construct a cofferdam on the downstream side of the project. During the course of the tour he met most of the Corps’ staff involved with construction, with spirited discussions on the economic merits of the project and historical inefficient funding levels, Getty said.
The colonel also met with Matt Ricketts, who serves on the presidentially appointed Inland Waterways User Board, and is the board’s representative assigned to Kentucky Lock. The two interacted and established a positive rapport during the tour.
“Colonel Kremer was impressed with the technical complexity of work already accomplished and with the ongoing coffer dam project,” Getty said. “He said there is no better way to understand the technical challenges on a project like this than to visit up close and to be able to talk personally with those intimately involved, like the onsite concrete expert, Mark Gibson.”
During the colonel’s visit to the Nashville District, he also had the opportunity to visit the Center Hill Dam Hydropower Rehabilitation Project in Lancaster, Tenn., and Barkley Dam Power Plant in Kuttawa, Ky., to learn about the production of hydroelectricity and the district’s efforts to upgrade its 28 hydropower units at nine dams in the Cumberland River Basin.
Loren McDonald, project manager, explained to Kremer during his tour of Center Hill Dam Power Plant that the Corps is authorized by the Water Resources Development Act of 2000, Section 212, to accept and expend funds to perform rehab work on hydropower equipment. She said that under this provision of the law, funds that would normally be returned to the general fund of the U.S. Treasury are used to maintain the hydropower generating equipment.
“I thought Colonel Kremer was impressed with the skilled work ongoing to rehabilitate 50-plus-year-old machinery,” McDonald said. “He appeared struck by the complexity and uniqueness of the system. While the Section 212 Program provides funds critical for the replacement and modernization of the turbine-generator components, significant needs still exist within the plant that are not currently funded through Section 212 and require competition for operations and maintenance funds.”
McDonald added that visiting the project and seeing needs firsthand helps him better grasp the complexities of operating a multi-purpose project.
The Nashville District awarded a $47.25 million contract to Voith Hydro in June 2014 to rehabilitate three Center Hill Dam hydropower units. The contractor completed the rehabilitation of unit two in July 2017, the first unit to be rehabbed in the district, and is currently working on unit one.
Kremer said it was great to learn about the Nashville District’s hydropower training program and to see firsthand how employees are committed to safety.
“Seeing how the Section 212 Program works was great,” Kremer added. “It’s another example of the partnership that we have outside of the federal government to enable not only the repairs and upgrades, but to keep these plants operating as far as we can into the future.”
The colonel also met with employees at the Nashville District Headquarters Dec. 6, and took time to share his leadership perspective with managers taking part in the Supervisor Training Program.
“I thought the visit was an invaluable opportunity for Colonel Kramer to gain a full understanding of the Nashville District’s amazing team and its diverse mission set,” Jones said. “His ability to visit some of our critical projects at Chickamauga, Center Hill, Kentucky Lock and Barkley enabled him to physically see the scope and magnitude of Nashville District’s missions as they ‘Deliver the Program’ in the Tennessee and Cumberland River Basins.”