Lock and Dam Operations

USACE has launched a long-term initiative to modernize lock & dam inland and intracoastal waterways operations by implementing remote operations. Remote operations are essential to preparing for the future of navigation and will strengthen USACE’s ability to deliver its navigation mission.  USACE is committed to ensuring that remote locking will be as safe, reliable & consistent as it is today. Remote lock & dam operation is common practice in many countries today (ex. Canada, Netherlands, and Germany) and utilizes standard and secure technology and equipment already in use in several industries.  We are in the beginning of a multi-decade, funding-dependent transition and the Corps is committed to its workforce and working with all employees throughout this process.

Phase 1 – National Assessment

In the national assessment, USACE evaluated the feasibility of lock and dam remote operations, developed an operational and technical framework, and outlined an enterprise-wide implementation strategy. The strategy (shown in figure 2) proposed further detailed site-specific analysis.

Phase 2 – Program Delivery

At sites considered for remote operation, the first step will be to prepare a detailed and specific site report documenting the operations, staffing, infrastructure, costs, cyber & physical security considerations, stakeholder engagement and recommendation.  A staffing study will inform the planning and execution of a voluntary workforce transition strategy.  At sites approved for remote operation, the implementation phase includes budgeting, design, construction, and transition over several years. The program delivery timeline will be funding-dependent and will likely occur over several decades.


                                                                                                   Figure 1. Schedule

Figure 2. Potential locations for lock and dam remote operations

Lock Operations

USACE currently operates locks from a control stand on the lock wall or in an on-site control room using cameras and sensors (depicted in the two diagrams on the left of figure 3). In remote operation, the control room is off-site in a regional operation center (figure 3, diagram on the right). Local control will remain in all operations to maintain operation in an emergency. It is important to note that remote operations are not equivalent to autonomous operations, as a lock operator will still control all lock operations.

Figure 3. Lock operation scenarios