The gates at Lock 4 are being repaired as part of an ongoing project to reopen more than 60 miles of the Kentucky River from Frankfort to the Ohio River.
The Kentucky River Authority is using $4 million in excess construction funds for repairs at locks 1, 2, 3 and 4 within the next two years, according to KRA Executive Director Jerry Graves.
The project will open 64 miles of the river from here Carrollton to boat traffic, Graves said.
Lock 4, which operates on weekends and holidays during boating season, is in better shape than other locks that need work, he said.
Crews with Brayman Construction, of Saxonburg, Pa., will remove the lock’s gates next week and replace oak timbers that partially seal the gates when closed; install stainless steel anchor arms; fix valve gates that control water flow in the lock; replace the gates’ mounts; dredge within 200 feet of each gate; and other structural work as necessary, Graves said. He said the gates haven’t had extensive repairs since the 1980s.
Brayman Construction has also contracted with Specialty Underwater Services, of Curtis Bay, Md., for divers on the project.
Similar work will be performed at Lock 3 near Monterey. At Lock 1 in Carrollton, crews will replace a leaning retaining wall, Graves said.
Repairs on Lock 2 in Lockport will begin next year, he added.
“They just need some TLC,” Graves said. “… This should give us a 30- or 40-year fix.”
While a barge hauling the 160-foot crane that will be used for the project is on the river, Graves said Brayman Construction will also clear downed trees and other potential boating hazards near Stoney Creek and Steamboat Hollow.
If work is complete by late September, KRA may extend the boating season and operate the locks through October to work out any kinks before shutting down for the winter, Graves said. KRA typically opens Lock 4 on weekends from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
Graves, an avid boater who serves on the local Riverfront Development Committee, says he hopes reopening the locks will prove an economic boon to Frankfort, especially if boaters travel from the Ohio River.
“Back in the 1970s and ‘80s there used to be 40, 50 boats coming through here every weekend,” Graves said, noting boaters typically spent money on meals and hotels. “It was quite a draw for Frankfort and downtown Frankfort.”
Plans by the Riverfront Development Committee to revitalize the area have been slow to materialize, but Graves said the group is making ground.
“Everybody’s on board to do some things here,” Graves said of local officials’ support for the riverfront development plan. “We’ve got this beautiful resource, and a lot of people don’t really realize that it’s here.”
Graves, who was named director of KRA in September, said some call the Kentucky River “a series of little bitty lakes” because many locks have been sealed shut.
“Hopefully we’re going to free up 64 miles of river,” he said.