ORTONA, FL. -- The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District has resumed normal operations at the Ortona Lock on the Okeechobee Waterway, following completion of maintenance and repairs.
Completion of the work allows the Corps to resume normal operations as of Sunday, June 17, locking vessels on demand between 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., with the last lockage beginning at 4:30 p.m., seven days a week.
"We know that everyone who uses the Okeechobee Waterway has been anxious to have the lock back open and operational. We recognize these repairs have posed an inconvenience to boaters, both commercial and recreational," said Carol Bernstein, Jacksonville District Operations Division Chief. "Our thanks goes out to the boating community for their patience and understanding while we completed repairs to keep our infrastructure safe and our waterways open in the future. Planned maintenance minimizes the chance of costly emergency closures in the future, which typically take much longer to complete."
"This was the first lock closure along the Okeechobee Waterway in six years. We had to inspect and maintain our locks, and replace the gate seals," said Gary Russ, Chief of the South Florida Operations Office located in Clewiston. "Despite the long days and tough work, this was a great team effort. We waited for manatees to move to safety and electrical storms to pass, and worked long hours in the south Florida heat. Wayne Sullivan's team of skilled workers brought years of knowledge and experience and worked together as a team, each person depending on others to get the job done. It was a job well done."
Maintenance is necessary periodically to repair aging and damaged infrastructure, in addition to improving public and vessel safety. Repairs required the lock chamber to be dewatered for crews to perform inspections, replace gate seals and repair Manatee Protection System (MPS) components. During the closure, barges, floating cranes and divers worked in the lock entrance, required vessel operators in the area to use minimal speed and caution for safety.
The Corps of Engineers published a notice to navigation interests and coordinated with marinas, commercial and recreational vessels, and members of the public in advance of the closure of the Ortona Lock for maintenance June 4 through 16.
The Ortona Lock is located on the Caloosahatchee River, 15.5 miles west of the Moore Haven Lock on the west side of Lake Okeechobee, and 27.9 miles east of the W.P. Franklin Lock near Olga and Fort Myers. The Ortona Lock and Dam were constructed in 1937 for navigation and flood control purposes. The Ortona Lock is one of five locks located along the 152-mile Okeechobee Waterway, which allows safe passage of vessels from the Atlantic Ocean near Stuart to the Gulf of Mexico at Fort Myers.
Learn more about the Ortona Lock: http://www.saj.usace.army.mil/OrtonaLock