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ZEBULON PIKE LOCK AND DAM
This entry is being edited.MISSISSIPPI RIVER.
In 1929 Congress authorized the construction of locks and dams on the Upper Mississippi River. The purpose was to maintain a nine-foot deep channel enabling barges and other river craft to use the river through the season of open water. (1) In 1933 a survey indicated at a dam with locks could be constructed less than a mile above Specht's Ferry. An Army Corps of Engineers report, however, found that the river bedrock was not suitable. A second survey indicated that Dubuque would be a good alternative. In addition, the project would provide jobs for many people unemployed. (2) In late 1933 a precise location for the construction was chosen upstream from the EAGLE POINT BRIDGE.
Work on the lock and dam, named for famed explorer Zebulon Montgomery PIKE, began in 1933 with the construction of the locks. Workers earned thirty-five to fifty cents per hour with skilled labor making $1.25. (3) A cofferdam was first constructed around the site of the lock and the area inside pumped dry for the workmen. Residents of KIMBALL'S PARK meanwhile began plans for evacuation. To create the pool that would exist behind the dam, workmen labored through the winter sawing and removing trees from the bottom land. Construction of the dam was started on September 30, 1935. Steel plates were driven up to forty-five feet below the river bed and sixteen chain operated roller and "Tainter" gates were erected to hold back the water. When finished lock measured 600 by 110 feet. The dam was 1,276 feet long in addition to the levee that extended the rest of the way to the Wisconsin shore.
It is not generally remembered that President Franklin Roosevelt was being criticized severely at this time. River traffic had been declining, and critics believed such projects were a waste of money.
The facility was first put into operation on September 13, 1937 when W. A. Turner, the resident engineer and lock master of the dam, pressed a button closing the last of the thirteen tainter gates. The day was chosen because no tow boats operated by Inland Waterways Corporation were due to pass at the locks. It was expected that the locks would be fully functional three days after the gates were lowered. Small pleasure boats were not stopped. A small spot on the Wisconsin side of the dam was left open for their passage. The water there was three feet deep.
The eleventh of, at the time, twenty-six LOCKS and dams between St. Paul and Minneapolis, Minnesota, and St. Louis, Missouri, the locks cost $1,470,000 to construct. The dam, at 4,818 feet was one of the largest on the river. The lift section of the dam measured 1,278 feet. The gates were 30 feet high and 55 feet long.
The lock and dam were dedicated on August 21, 1938. (1) Miss Hazel Skemp, the centennial queen, broke a bottle containing water from the Atlantic and Pacific oceans over a concrete wall christening the structure. (2) Speeches made from the deck of the steamer "Ellen" belonging to the Army Corps of Engineers were broadcast from speakers on shore and in EAGLE POINT PARK. A regetta, with many boats replicas of pioneer craft, organized by Richard BISSELL was staged and in the evening the last performance of "Under Five Flags," the history of the Upper Mississippi, was performed. (2)
1. "Forty Years of Service: That's Some 'Boondoggle'" Telegraph Herald, July 24, 1977, p. 1. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=UNFBAAAAIBAJ&sjid=OKoMAAAAIBAJ&pg=3721,2874769&dq=zebulon+pike+lock+and+dam+dubuque&hl=en
1. "Dubuque Dam Dedication is Set for August 21st," August 7, 1938, p. 20. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=sNtBAAAAIBAJ&sjid=3akMAAAAIBAJ&pg=6870,4631540&dq=zebulon+pike+lock+and+dam+dubuque&hl=en
"Eagle Point Locks, Gates Are Closed, " Telegraph-Herald. Sept. 14, 1937, p. 1 and 9
Special thanks to Joe Schallan.