Corps of Engineers will hold public meeting Thursday

The Army Corps of Engineers Little Rock District will host two workshops Thursday in Pine Bluff to discuss proposed changes to lock and dam policies for recreational boaters along the Arkansas River.

Meetings will be held Thursday from 2 to 4 p.m. and from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Delta Rivers Nature Center in Regional Park.

The workshop will allow residents to talk to Corps representatives about the proposed changes. Written comments will also be accepted.

The proposed recreation changes will reduce the number of swings on lock gates at facilities with high recreational boating traffic, thus reducing the wear on the gates.

“Currently, our two high recreational lockage facilities are Murray Lock and Dam in Little Rock and Terry Lock and Dam near Scott, Ark.,” the Little Rock District’s Chief of Operations Division John Balgavy said.

The Corps implemented a new program of daily preventive maintenance Oct. 1 at Trimble Lock, near Fort Smith and Ozark Lock at Ozark. Those locks close for a four-hour period daily to allow personnel to perform routine preventive and scheduled maintenance.

“We are looking into the benefits of expanding our preventive maintenance program to the remainder of our Arkansas locks,” Balgavy said.

The implementation of daily maintenance periods and limiting recreational boaters’ lockage times is expected to increase the service life of the facilities and help to reduce unscheduled outages.

The policy will take into account special scheduled events including bass tournaments, flotillas, and civic celebrations, according to the Corps.

The McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System has operated essentially without interruption except for routine scheduled maintenance for more than 40 years; however, the Corps is seeing trends of constrained budgets, increasing breakdowns and backlog of preventive maintenance.