Port Allen Lock reopens after USACE completes repairs

Published May 6, 2024

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New Orleans District, reopened the Port Allen Lock again for waterborne traffic after closing it for emergency repairs earlier this year. Ships, barges and other traffic began passing through the lock again the morning of April 27, 2024.

The lock experienced a miter gate hinge anchorage failure, resulting in a closure of the structure on March 28, 2024.First tow through the Port Allen Lock

According to Victor Landry, USACE New Orleans District, Gulf Intracoastal Waterway (GIWW) operations manager, inspectors identified cracked concrete and a failed weld embedded approximately 15 inches into the concrete wall of the lock. USACE and its maintenance partners developed a repair plan and coordinated the necessary repair teams, including dive crews and crane operators. The Vicksburg District supplied the heavy-lift crane used at the lock during the repair process as well as engineers from the Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC), who performed tests and evaluated the repairs. Workers removed the damaged parts and fabricated new components for placement in the lock.

While the Port Allen Lock was closed for repairs, waterborne traffic used the Algiers Lock to travel from the Mississippi River into the GIWW. Located just below New Orleans on the west bank of the river, this lock provides an alternate waterway connection from the Mississippi River to the GIWW.

“We were able to get all the messaging out to our state and federal partners and the navigation industry,” said Landy, noting how USACE kept all relevant parties notified of the Port Allen Lock closure and detour route through the Algiers Lock. The U.S. Coast Guard and the Gulf Intracoastal Canal Association were key partners in disseminating the information across the navigation industry.

Landry noted that USACE crews and their maintenance partners worked 12- to 16-hour days, seven days a week to get the lock back up and running. Once the weld was repaired and the concrete replaced, USACE crews inspected and tested the lock before finally reopening it to waterborne traffic.

“There are a lot of critical commodities and products that move on this reach of the GIWW,” said Landry, noting the importance of this lock to the traffic moving along the waterway. He praised the efforts of all parties involved in repairing the lock and ensuring traffic could be redirected and continue to flow. “This was really a broad, team effort with all the different parties involved to help make this a success.”

The Port Allen Lock, which was built by USACE in 1961, provides vessel and barge traffic between the Mississippi River and the Morgan City-to-Port Allen route of the GIWW and normally has anywhere from 16 to 20 vessels pass through it per day. The intracoastal waterway links deep-water ports, rivers and other navigable waterways from the Mexican border to Apalachicola, Fla., and it serves as an important link for these ports along the U.S. Gulf Coast that proves vital to the nation’s economy and world trade.

The lock sits at the southern end of the Port of Baton Rouge on the west bank of the Mississippi River. The route through the Port Allen Lock is 174 miles shorter than travelling the Mississippi River and taking the Algiers Lock to reach the GIWW.

“Repairing the Port Allen Lock was a top priority for USACE so that we could help to restore waterborne traffic along the important waterways connected by this lock,” said Col. Cullen Jones, USACE New Orleans District commander. “I’m proud of the efforts USACE and maintenance personnel undertook to accomplish this critical task.”

Ryan Labadens