Lock and Dam crews on Mississippi River closely monitor flood levels

The Army Corps of Engineers is closely monitoring the situation.
Published: Apr. 19, 2023 at 4:53 PM CDT
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Minnesota City, Minn. (KTTC) – The lock and dam network on the Mississippi is a network that keeps commerce and trade moving, and with recent flooding, the Army Corps of Engineers is closely monitoring the situation.

Lock and dams are for water navigation only, opening up gates to let barges and boats through. Without them, some parts of the river would dry up. There are 13 locks from St. Paul to Guttenberg, Iowa.

“In 1932 to 1936 is when they started putting the locks and dams in,” Lock & Dam 5 Lockmaster Judy Denzer said. “Ever since then, they have a little stairway, to keep the water up in the cities, in these low spots, in the back waters, you have these extra spots to hold water.”

Denzer said when the water gets too high, they close because it is too dangerous for boats and barges to pass.

This week, the Army Corps of Engineers closed Lock & Dam 4 in Alma, Wisconsin and Lock & Dam 3 near Red Wing.

Denzer said for Lock & Dam 5, it’s a wait and see situation.

“Right now, we’re considered high water,” she said. “When it comes to flooding, what happens is, when we get to half a foot below our wall, we have to cease navigation. Meaning we can’t lock anything through.”

Denzer said they have been preparing, especially with more rain forecasted.

“We keep watching the national weather service to see what they’re expecting,” she said. “It’s raining now, we still prepare every day, and we actually started sandbagging. If it gets to higher levels, then we will get a whole crew in here just to put everything out.”

Denzer cautions people to stay away from flood waters and cautions against water travel on the river right now.

“This flooding also brings a lot of debris, which can be dangerous, there are things like docks and trees can create dangerous situations,” she said. “The water is also moving fast.”

Locks 3 and 4 are projected to be closed for around a week, but the exact timing will depend on the river levels and when it is safe to resume navigation.