On Tuesday April 30, Pittsburgh Section members were the guests of the Dashields Lock and Dam in Crescent Township on the Ohio River. Our hosts were Local Section Member Ashlyn Landgraf, Lockmaster Mark Eberle and Assistant Lockmaster Steve Ceriani.
The Dashields Lock and Dam is owned and operated by the US Army Corps of Engineers as part of the USACE Pittsburgh District. The Pittsburgh District was established in 1866 and has approximately one thousand employees throughout the District. Headquarters are Downtown and the Commanding Officer is Colonel Andrew Short, USA.
Locks and Dams are required for navigation on the Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio Rivers. As the height of the river gradually decreases from the Point to the Ohio River junction with the Mississippi, and ultimately to sea level at the Gulf of Mexico, dams retain water to provide sufficient water depth for commercial and recreational navigation. Locks allow vessels to pass to and from pools of higher and lower elevation.
In the Pittsburgh District, there are a total of 23 Locks and Dams. The Mon River has 9, starting near Fairmont, West Virginia. The Allegheny River has 8, with the furthest lock upstream at Templeton, Penna. The Ohio River has six Locks and Dams throughout the Pitttsburgh District from the Point downriver to the Hannibal, O. – Martinsville, West Virginia area.
The Dashields Lock and Dam is located at Ohio River Mile Marker 13.3 (measured as miles downriver from the Point). It is the second lock on the Ohio between the Emsworth Lock and Dam near Avalon and the Montgomery L&D between Beaver and Midland. It was originally built between 1927 and 1929 at a cost of $3.5 million dollars.
The facility is named for early settler and postmaster David A. Shields. Shields was the husband of Eliza Leet, the daughter of Major Daniel Leet, who served as Chief of Staff to George Washington during the Revolutionary War. The Leet family is the namesake of Leetsdale, while the name of the lock and dam is a portmanteau of D. A. Shields.
The Dashields L&D is in continuous operation 24-hours a day, year round. Over 800 recreational and 4200 commercial lockages (passages) take place each year – all at no charge to the vessel.
The facility itself consists of two lock chambers – the auxiliary chamber 385 feet long and 56 feet wide, while the main chamber measures 600 feet long and 110 feet wide. A full size tow, three barges wide, will fit into the main chamber with 2 ½ feet of clearance on each side.
When a vessel approaches the lock, communication is established on VHF Radio and the lockmaster prepares by filling or emptying the chamber and opening the gate. A traffic signal with red, yellow, and green lights signals the tow to enter or stand by off the chamber. Once inside the gate is closed and water is pumped into or out of the chamber and when ready, the gate opens and the vessel departs. A cycle is completed in only fifteen minutes.
The lock chambers and dam are built of concrete set directly on the bedrock below. Maintenance is a constant and is carried out by the L&D staff as well as other USACE assets and contractors. This is needed to keep the navigation system flowing, moving the major cargoes of coal, chemicals and petroleum, iron and steel, and aggregate products moving.
The Dashields Dam stretches 1585 feet wide across the entire breath of the river. It is a concrete dam with a fixed head with 12 feet of height difference between the upstream and downstream pools.
Following the tour led by Lockmasters Eberle and Ceriani, Ms. Landgraf gave a presentation about health and safety activities in the Pittsburgh District. As one can imagine there are many potential hazards in L&D Operations. Fall Protection, lead, asbestos, confined space, silica and hazardous materials are just a few of the hazards that must be managed to protect the workforce.
One initiative the District is currently emphasizing is fall protection. Falls in the construction industry make up 39% of all construction deaths, and within the states in the District, in Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania, 61 workers lost their lives.
Using the principles of PLAN – PROVIDE – TRAIN the District is working on safety by properly PLANNING activities, PROVIDING necessary equipment, and TRAINING employees in the use of the equipment and recognizing and controlling the hazards.
Twenty-one Members participated in the Dashields Lock and Dam tour and presentation. We have been fortunate to have many interesting facility visit opportunities and this is one that will be particularly memorable. The Section is very appreciative to Ms. Landgraf for hosting the tour and giving the presentation as well as the tremendous hospitality of Lockmasters Eberle and Ceriani.
Thanks to Dennis Kelly, Past-President for Write-up, and Frank Pokrywka, Secretary and Matt Zock, Past-President for photos.