Rising water levels on the Ohio River and repeated failures at Locks and Dam 52 and 53 shut down river traffic this week, queuing vessel traffic along a 80-kilometre stretch.
The river was closed on Monday at Locks and Dam 52 due to rising river stages, as river elevations exceeded the maximum locking stage of 6.2 metres.
As of Thursday morning the queue stood at 51 towboats and vessels, plus 564 barges. Transits were unlikely to resume before Monday.
The Waterways Council advised members in an update that levels were expected to fall over the weekend.
"Based on current conditions, flows past Smithland Locks and Dam are projected to steadily rise through Friday, October 13 … and then fall thereafter," the advisory noted.
"Discharges from Kentucky and Barkley Lakes are being coordinated with the Tennessee Valley Authority and the Corps of Engineers’ Nashville District in order to reduce discharges as Ohio River flows decrease. As a result of this effort, Locks and Dam 52 upper gage is projected to fall within navigable limits either late Sunday, October 15, or early Monday, October 16."
It is the latest breakdown of many in recent months that have led to industry groups campaigning to rebuild the nation’s inland waterways.
Commissioned in 1928, the Ohio River locks and dams are to be replaced by the US$3 billion Olmsted Locks and Dam, which is scheduled to become operational next year.
The failures can also affect industrial operations and municipal water supplies along the Ohio River.
Emergency repairs have created further delays along the Ohio River, including the locks at Smithland, Cannelton, Meldahl and Dashields.