GALVESTON, Texas (Dec. 14, 2012) – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Galveston District is proposing to adjust operations at the Brazos River Floodgates and Colorado River Locks following a reduction in the Corps’ nationwide inland navigation budget for fiscal year 2013 and is seeking public comment.
Beginning April 1, 2013, the district proposes to continue to support 24-hour lock operations however, gate swings will be limited from opening on demand to opening every hour on the hour for recreational vessels only. Commercial vessels, emergency and law enforcement will not be affected by these operational changes.
The two Corps owned-and-operated gated structures provide safe navigation on the Texas portion of the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway and allow nearly 10,000 vessels to carry billions of dollars of commercial goods along the GIWW annually.
“This system-wide approach will enable the district to provide the best level of service within the available budget and continue to ensure the safe and expeditious navigation of commercial and recreational vessels along the Texas coast,” said Col. Christopher W. Sallese, USACE Galveston District commander. “We will continue to evaluate our operations to ensure our lock and floodgate structures function in a manner that is both sustainable and adaptable to fiscal challenges and responsive to users’ needs.”
According to Sallese, the reduction of wear and tear on navigation lock equipment and gates will prolong the life of the system and make available more operating dollars to address ongoing maintenance needs. In addition to the changes in the operations schedule, staff installed lights and reflector tape at the entrances of the locks to reduce the number of vessel collisions with the guide walls.
Chief of Project Operations Karl Brown, USACE Galveston District’s Operations Division, acknowledges the change will cause an inconvenience for some boaters but says there will be flexibility in this new schedule to allow for recreational boaters to participate in special events and states that recreational boaters can still follow commercial vessels through the locks.
“Though the locks were designed to assist in the safe navigation of commercial vessels, we’ve successfully allowed recreational boaters to use these facilities for several years,” said Brown. “As we work with our partners to reduce operating costs across the Corps, we understand the impact this will have on our recreational users and therefore will review Special Use Permit requests that will provide a significant economic impact to the region.”
According to Brown, the public can request a Special Use Permit for a temporary change to lock operations for short durations for a significant event that either contributes to the community economically such as a fishing tournament or is beneficial to the community.
The proposed change in operations is expected to affect more than 32,000 recreational boaters who use the two facilities each year. The Corps encourages recreational boaters to use Bragg’s Cut to avoid the east gate at the Colorado River Locks and help reduce recreational traffic by an estimated 80 percent.
Requests for a Special Use Permit can be submitted to Karl Brown at Karl.B.Brown@usace.army.mil. To provide feedback regarding this new policy change, log on to http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/CC68YVV to participate in an anonymous survey. Responses will be forwarded to the Operations Division staff and district commander for review.
To learn more about the Brazos River Floodgates, visit http://www.swg.usace.army.mil/BusinessWithUs/OperationsDivision/BrazosRiverFloodgatesSummary.aspx, or the Colorado River Locks at http://www.swg.usace.army.mil/BusinessWithUs/OperationsDivision/ColoradoRiverLocksSummary.aspx. Find us on Facebook, www.facebook.com/GalvestonDistrict or follow us on Twitter, www.twitter.com/USACEgalveston.