The Army Corps of Engineers held a conference call last week to trumpet the imminent completion of the Olmsted Locks and Dam project on the Ohio River in Illinois. The project, which began in 1995, is scheduled to be finished this fall at an estimated cost of $3 billion, making it the longest and most expensive project in Corps' history. “Just the technology here is absolutely amazing,” said Lieutenant General Todd Semonite, the Corps’ commander, describing big new gates in the river and a crane that will use GPS to locate and adjust submerged wickets, which control the depth and flow of the river at the site. The two locks replacing the ancient Locks 52 and 53, he said, will allow shippers to move through the location in about a half hour, compared with the usual 60 to 90 minutes to transverse each of the locks in years past. The Corps notes that more tonnage passes through the Olmsted stretch of the river than any other place in America’s inland water navigation system, so Semonite emphasized the advantage new locks will give barge operators moving coal, grain and other commodities downriver.

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