Dam lock repair funds OK'd

The downstream lock will get a $14 million overhaul after federal stimulus funds were secured.

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Funds to keep river traffic flowing through the Lower Monumental Dam navigation lock are in the works.

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray announced that $14 million to repair the downstream lock have been included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The task will employ an estimated 523 people, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which operates the facility.

In recent years, inspections of the gate revealed structural fatigue and required annual welding repairs to continue reliable operations. Last year, more than 1,000 recreational and commercial vessels were locked past the dam. Commercial vessels transported almost 2.2 million tons of commodities through the facility, which is near Kahlotus on the Snake River.

Project managers anticipate installation of the new gate will take about 13-16 weeks and the work is being planned to occur during late 2010 to early 2011.

In a release, Murray said that keeping the Columbia-Snake River system open for commerce is critical to communities up and down the river.

"These funds will help farmers and business owners move their products to market, and will help keep our hydroelectric system strong. I have consistently fought to ensure that the Army Corps has the resources it needs to continue to provide the infrastructure that our state needs and I am pleased that these funds have been added," she said.

The dam, which entered service in 1969, provides hydropower, irrigation, recreation and navigation. It is one of four dams on the lower Snake River operated by the Corps' Walla Walla District Office which is headquartered in Walla Walla.

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