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Corps Does Much-Needed Maintenance with Dam Gates Open

JOHNSON COUNTY, IA (CBS2/FOX28) -- It started with a spark: the idea that crews with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers could go dozens of feet into the Coralville Dam to oil, weld and drill parts of the dam's three gates, when typically, those parts are all under water.

"It's such a rare opportunity that we have all three gates out," said Coralville Lake Manager Dee Goldman.

Typically, the process to do the kind of maintenance work that corps members did on Monday is a much more dangerous process.

"We have to set an emergency bulkhead, then pull a gate, and that has to travel 70 feet at a very slow rate," Goldman said.

But with so much water coming out of the dam, and the gates wide open, the parts that need to be drilled into are high and dry. The work they did Monday will help them prepare for the dam's five-year inspection coming up in 2014.

"Next year, when we have that periodic, we can pull that gate and see how that weld's help up," Goldman said.

The open gates aren't the only thing working in their favor: with the road closed over the dam, the corps is able to get the job done in just about a day. Normally, it would take them three days to a week to do it. That not only saves them time, but money, as well, Goldman said.

"I guess if we have to look for a silver lining, that is one of them," he said.

For those who are under water, having the gates wide open is a little murkier. But with more rain predicted in the coming days, there's not much anyone can do, but wait.

"Just wait for things to go back down and get back to a normal life," said Guy Smith. The garage next to his home on Taft Speedway flooded and is still underwater.

Because the corps saved time on the maintenance work, the road over the dam will re-open Tuesday at noon.
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