Steward Machine sends three lock doors via barge

Published 7:12 pm Friday, April 1, 2016












A 95-foot barge has been docked on the Flint River since Tuesday as workers at Steward Machine Company work to load three lock doors. The doors are bound for Rock Island, Illinois.

Made out of mild steel, each door weighs 82 tons. They are the first fully submersible doors built by Steward Machine. The specialty design allows the doors to be submerged during the winter when the river freezes over and then brought back up when the river thaws.

Called tainer gates, the doors work like a clamshell and rotate up and down unlike typical lock doors, which either swing open like barn doors or lift straight up.

“A lot of blood, sweat and tears,” DeWayne Lanoir, quality control manager at Steward, said of what it took to make the doors. “Everything starts as a piece of plate or a piece of beam.”

Steward Machine began work on the doors in February 2015 after being awarded the contract by the Army Corps of Engineers in November 2014.

The presence of the barge in town has once again brought to the forefront the inability for consistent barge traffic to be established on the Flint River in Bainbridge due to water depth issues on a three-mile stretch of the Apalachicola River in Florida.

Boats travel from the Flint River through Lake Seminole into the Apalachicola River, which leads into the intercostal waterway. From there they can access the Mississippi River.

According to Rick McCaskill, the executive director of the Development Authority of Bainbridge/Decatur County, there are multiple businesses in Bainbridge that could double or triple their work force if they had access to reliable barge travel.

“The fact that we should be a port is a big deal,” McCaskill said. “Anything that is too big to ship by rail or road we’d be an excellent location to build.”

He said that they have been working on a resolution for 20 years, and while progress has been made, it has been very slow.

“It is glacial,” McCaskill said.

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