Maintenance Support Team, Lock engineers tackle tough jobsView Source
GRAND RIVERS, Ky. (March 10, 2023) – Nashville District Maintenance Support Team and engineers from Kentucky Lock and Barkley Lock onboard the Motor Vessel Iroquois repaired a mooring cell by replacing broken and outdated parts this week just upstream of Kentucky Lock on the Tennessee River in Grand Rivers, Kentucky.
The MST and Kentucky Lock maintenance personnel worked side by side to hang signs, repair mooring cells, and weld new metal tie off rings used by vessels waiting to lock through Kentucky Lock. With assistance from the MST, personnel at the lock can accomplish tougher repairs that require special equipment or additional staff.
The traveling MST is a three-person team assigned to the Iroquois. The master pilot is Herbert Thomasson, Darryl Henry is the crane operator, and Wayne Hart serves as the chief engineer. The Iroquois and MST navigate the Tennessee River and Cumberland River to provide maintenance and repair to Corps projects and have visited Kentucky Lock several times over the last few years.
Thomasson is in charge of navigating the boat to the required locations and positioning it to accomplish repair work. Thomasson said he enjoys his job and traveling the rivers, helping engineers make repairs they could not do previously.
“I love working for the Corps. I've worked on the river for 46 years this June, I’ve been a licensed pilot for 40 years and I've worked for the Corps for 12 years. I feel like I've been around long enough to have seen a lot of this stuff done and I can give my professional advice when needed,” said Thomasson.
Ross Cunningham, Lake Barkley Lock and Dam Equipment supervisor, selected the necessary welders, electricians, crane operators, and engineers from Lake Barkley Lock and Kentucky Lock to accomplish the vigorous work.
“It’s my responsibility to gather maintenance staff from Kentucky and Barkley Locks who can execute jobs that take a little bit more manpower and a little bit more equipment capabilities than what we already have at the lock project. We’re glad to have so many skilled personnel to choose from. It makes building these teams a lot easier,” said Cunningham.
Cunningham said jobs the MST has provided support for are unlimited.
“There’s a lot the MST can do within their capabilities. The Iroquois carries a crane with a 110-ton compacity which helps us gain access to places like Barkley Lock’s riverwall and Kentucky Locks lower land wall.”
Cunningham said the camaraderie and the people that he works with are his favorite part of the job. “They're pretty special people and they all have a lot of skills. It’s an honor being the leader of this team and I believe there's nothing that we can't accomplish.”
During this visit, the MST focused on repairing mooring cells damaged by commercial towing boats and privately owned vessels.
Kentucky Lock and Dam Operator and Maintenance Mechanic Adam Halcom said repairing these rings is an important job because vessels traveling through Kentucky Lock need to moor their boat while they wait for the lock gates to open.
“We had to remove the broken rings in order to weld new rings to the mooring cell. We also applied safety shackles. These are critical cells travelers need access to while navigating the Tennessee River,” said Halcom.
Halcom said there are jobs along the river that engineers can’t accomplish without the help of the MST so coming together to get the job done always feels like a great accomplishment.
“It’s good when we can team up because it’s one of the few times, we all get to work together. It’s a great atmosphere and I know I can gain new knowledge,” said Halcom.
Last year, Kentucky Lock gates were damaged when a vessel barreled right into the closed gates, almost breaking completely through to the other side. The Iroquois pulled up to the lock gates providing easy access for the MST to quickly make the repairs.
“The gates are very large, and so was the damage. The MST provided additional hands and equipment we needed to make the skin plates and valve stem repairs so we could get the gates fixed and Kentucky Lock operational as quickly as possible,” said Cunningham.
The Tennessee River is 653 miles long with the farthest lock being Fort Loudoun Lock near mile 602. Due to the enormous length of the lake and limited access to parts of the land surrounding the locks, Thomasson said the MST’s work is even more critical.
“The locks on the East Tennessee River are single barge locks which don't always have access to the far side of the lock. Engineers at these locations may need assistance with repairs as simple as putting up a flagpole or setting a bulkhead working gate repaired. They have no access to those areas but we do, so the MST is a very vital asset to the entire river system especially on the East Tennessee end,” said Thomasson.
It does not take any additional training to be a part of the MST or to work with them. Team members are typically engineers from the Corps location needing the additional assistance, but engineers from other Nashville District locations or USACE districts may offer additional assistance.
“I've been to other locations with Thomasson on the Iroquois to repair their facilities. We don’t need any required training. We already have training from working at the lock as a maintenance mechanic. We do get some training on the boat, but it’s pretty straight forward, “said Halcom.
The Nashville District routinely advertises its job opportunities on USAJobs.gov, and also posts them on its public LinkedIn page. The public is encouraged to follow the LinkedIn page for the latest Nashville District employment and contracting opportunities at https://www.linkedin.com/company/u-s-army-corps-of-engineers-nashville-district.
The public can also obtain news, updates and information from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District on the district’s website at www.lrn.usace.army.mil, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/nashvillecorps and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/nashvillecorps. The public can also follow Kentucky Lock on Facebook at www.facebook.com/kentuckylock.