Iowa River Traffic Relies on Aging Lock and Dam System Aug 20, 2018 - In the final week of April, crews discovered cracks in the anchorage at Lock and Dam No. 11 in Dubuque. The finding prompted an immediate emergency closure of the structure and effectively halted traffic up and down the Mississippi River for 24 hours. By the time the lock reopened, boats were lined up for 7 miles. But lockmaster Gary Kilburg points out that the situation could have been much worse. He noted that maintenance crews were prepping for an upcoming miter gate replacement and, thus, were on site when the structural problems were discovered. "We were very fortunate that they discovered this when the maintenance crews were already here," he said. "Luck was on our side. If they hadn't been here, it could've been a weeklong shutdown." Still, it served as a stark reminder of the ripple effect that even a brief closure can have on river traffic. It also again focused attention on the aging lock-and-dam system — and the potentially crippling impact a major problem could have. "In the locking business, there is no second option," Kilburg said. "It's not like the highway, where the road shuts down and you can take another bridge. With the lock-and-dam system, there is no detour." The Telegraph Herald reports that the lock-and-dam structures in Dubuque, Bellevue and Guttenberg, Iowa, were completed in the late 1930s. All three have stood for 80 years, despite being designed with only a 50-year life expectancy.
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