American Society of Civil Engineers

Olmsted Dam Tainter Gate Design Considerations

by Nielsen Palmer, (Nielsen Engineering, LLC, Sverdrup/Jacobs Engineering (retired), 7338 Pershing Ave, St Louis, MO 63130 E-mail:
Section: Olmsted Lock and Dam—Quality Design and Construction Considerations, pp. 1-9, (doi:

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Document type: Conference Proceeding Paper
Part of: Structures Congress 2006: Structural Engineering and Public Safety
Abstract: The Olmsted Navigation Lock and Dam currently under construction near Olmsted, Illinois is on a stretch of the Lower Ohio River that is a major intersection of the inland water system involving the Mississippi, Tennessee, Cumberland and Ohio Rivers. The new Lock and Dam replaces L & D 52 and 53 that were built in the late 1920’ s and, as repair and maintenance costs escalate, are operating beyond their useful life. The US Army Corps of Engineers predicts that the new Olmsted Dam will reduce transit time from five hours through L&D 52/53 to only one hour. The estimated average annual economic benefit is more than $700 million. The purpose of the lock and dam are to help maintain a navigable depth of water along this stretch of the river. The dam consists of a Tainter Gated Section (550’), a Wicket Gated Section (1400’) and a Fixed Weir Section tying to the Kentucky shore. During periods of low water flow (about 40 % of the year) the Wicket gates are raised to block river flow, the Tainter Gates set to regulate flow, and barge tows must pass through the Locks. During periods of normal or higher flows the Wicket gates are lowered and lay along the bottom of the river, the Tainter Gates are fully raised and tows navigate through this section of the River unimpeded. Construction of the Dam is still in its early stages, while construction of the Lock is complete. There are five Tainter Gates which sit between concrete piers with a 110 foot face to face spacing. The dam face of the gate is a circular segment with a 54 ft radius from downstream face of the skin plate to the center line of gate trunnion and a 44.33 ft circular segment length giving a height above the sill of 37 ft. An unusual feature of these gates is operation utilizing hydraulic cylinders over the more traditional wire rope hoists. They will be stored in the fully raised position during periods of normal or higher river flows and thus are designed to rest on retractable gate stops that are extended from the supporting concrete piers. The weight of each gate is approximately 650 kips.

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