Those are heavy dam gates

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — After traveling 2,500 miles by train and truck, six 77,000-pound prefabricated galvanized steel bulkhead gates are on the final leg of a journey that began in Clackamas, Ore., and will end at the Winfield Locks and Dam in Putnam County.

Last week, workers at AmherstMadison used a crane to lift the bulkheads off railcars at their Port Amherst facility near the mouth of Campbells Creek. The interlocking steel units were then loaded onto trucks for a quarter-mile trip to AmherstMadison’s loading dock on the Kanawha River. There, another crane lowered the bulkheads onto a barge, placing them in two stacks of three units each.

It took three days to get the bulkheads off the railcars and onto a barge, according to Charles Jones, AmherstMadison’s president.

“After we got the process organized, we were able to move right along,” Jones said. “This is the second time we’ve moved bulkheads, but it’s the only time we’ve moved anything this long. We’ve moved heavier stuff, like draglines from here that ended up in Australia.”

The steel gates — 105 feet long, 12 feet high and 4 feet wide — arrived at Port Amherst on three railcars, according to Keith Blount, AmherstMadison’s vice president of construction.

“They’ll be used at Winfield to hold back the water so people can work at the base of the dam,” he said.

“This new bulkhead system will provide safe and efficient access for personnel to perform maintenance and repairs, if needed, on the dam’s roller gates,” said Jasmine Chopra-Delgadillo, public affairs specialist for the Huntington District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The bulkheads are typically installed just upstream from a dam’s roller gate, to provide dry access for repairs and inspections of the roller gate, Chopra-Delgadillo said. When stacked atop each other, the bulkheads provide 27 feet of damming height.

The existing bulkheads at Winfield were installed just before the Putnam County navigation structure opened to river traffic in 1935.

Recent inspections done in accordance with new Corps engineering regulations indicated that the 78-year-old bulkheads were worn and in need of replacement for safety reasons.

Dana Hassel of Oregon Iron Works, the company that fabricated the bulkheads, was on hand to see them loaded onto the barge for the final stage of their cross-country trip.

While there are steel fabricators in the East capable of handling the Winfield job, the Oregon firm came out on top in a competitive bidding process, Hassel said. Oregon Iron Works also is supplying components for the Willow Island hydro project on the Ohio River in Pleasants County.

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