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McAlpine Locks and Dam facts for kids

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McAlpine Locks and Dam
McAlpine Locks and Dam.jpg
McAlpine Locks and Dam, Louisville, Kentucky
Official name McAlpine Locks and Dam
Location Louisville, Kentucky
Coordinates 38°16′41″N 85°47′32″W / 38.2781°N 85.7922°W / 38.2781; -85.7922
Opening date 1830
Operator(s) United States Army Corps of Engineers Louisville District
Dam and spillways
Impounds Ohio River
Power station
Operator(s) Louisville Gas & Electric
Installed capacity 80 MW

The McAlpine Locks and Dam are a set of locks and a hydroelectric dam at the Falls of the Ohio River at Louisville, Kentucky. They are located at mile point 606.8, and control a 72.9 miles (117.3 km) long navigation pool. The locks and their associated canal were the first major engineering project on the Ohio River, completed in 1830 as the Louisville and Portland Canal, designed to allow shipping traffic to navigate through the Falls of the Ohio.


Tugboat at McAlpine Lock and Dam -c
Tugboat at McAlpine Locks and Dam, 2012
Paddling through McAlpine (10019343396)
Paddling through McAlpine

From 1925 to 1927, the dam for generating hydroelectric power was added, and the locks were expanded, first by a private company and then by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The hydroelectric plant at the time was the seventh largest hydroelectric plant in the United States.

The system was renamed the McAlpine Locks and Dam in 1960 in honor of William McAlpine, who was the only civilian to have ever served as district engineer for the Corps of Louisville. At present, the normal pool elevation is 420 feet (130 m) above sea level and the drainage area above the dam is 91,170 square miles (236,000 km²). The average daily flow at McAlpine is 118,000 cubic feet per second (3,340 m³/s). The lock chambers are located at the dam on the Kentucky side of the Ohio River and are capable of a normal lift of 37 feet (11 m) between the McAlpine pool upstream and the Cannelton pool downstream. The hydroelectric plant consists of eight turbine units with a net power generation capacity of 80,000 kilowatts.

In October 2003, McAlpine was designated a Historic Civil Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

The McAlpine locks underwent a 10-year, $278 million expansion project scheduled to be completed in 2008, but was completed in early 2009.


The hydroelectric plant is owned and operated by Louisville Gas & Electric, a subsidiary of PPL Corporation while the locks are operated by the Army Corps of Engineers.

Locks and dams of the Ohio River
Markland Locks and Dam
Cannelton Locks and Dam

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