River Locks Background
The Colorado River (crossing of the Gulf Intra coastal Waterway was
| originally constructed without navigation structures. 'Rapid shoaling
of the waterway occurred at the crossing and it became evident that
a protective structure would be required to reduce excessive dredging
Plans and specifications were prepared and a contract was issued to
the Brown & Root Company for the construction of two floodgates.
Construction of the floodgates was completed in September 1944 at a
total cost for new work of $2,251,400. Concurrent and subsequent contracts
were issued for construction of buildings, guide walls, fencing, paving,
and landscaping at a total cost for new work of $ 1,038,000.
The floodgates proved effective in the reduction of silt deposition
in the waterway, but delays to navigation were experienced due to a
frequent and excessive head differential caused by floodwaters in the
Colorado River. In May of 1951, a contract was awarded to the Texas
Construction Company for conversion of the floodgates to navigational
locks, construction of mooring walls, turfing, and slope protection.
The contract was completed in April of 1954 at a total cost for the
new work of $3,473,000.
The Colorado River Locks were designed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,
Galveston District, to aid passage of vessels and barges during periods
of high water in the Colorado River. When normal river conditions prevail,
the locks are used as floodgates to prevent excessive tidal action and
silting in the Intra coastal Waterway.
The Colorado River Locks consist of four lock gates of two sectors each.
A lock is located on each side of the Colorado River on the Gulf Intra
coastal Waterway. Each pair of gates encloses a lock chamber. Each gate
contains a control house, generator building, and its own set of navigation
aids. The west lock is accessible only by boat.
By the River and Harbor Act approved 21 January 1927, provisions were
made for the ' construction and maintenance of the Louisiana and Texas
Intra coastal Waterway (now the Gulf Intra coastal Waterway) from the
Sabine River to Galveston Bay in accordance with a project as set forth
in House Document numbered 238, 68"1 Congress, 1" Session.
The Colorado River Locks are located approximately 0.5 miles south of
Matagorda, Texas at the intersection of I the Colorado River and the
Gulf Intra coastal Waterway.
The locks, which operate 24-hours per day, seven days per week, can
be reached by traveling south on Highway 60 from Bay City. Safety Entering
a fter signaling that you want to lock through, wait for the lock operator
to signal that you may enter. You should stay past the end of the lock
walls until you are signaled to enter the lock. If a large craft is
leaving the lock and is headed in your direction, stay clear of departing
craft. Traffic signal lights guide at the locks.
A red fight means: Stand clear. DO NOT ENTER! A green light means: Enter
Please carry at least 50 feet of mooring line aboard to lock through.
You will need it during lockage to tie your craft safely to a mooring
wall. Ti to mooring posts along the wall. Be prepared to ca; off your
mooring line quickly in case of emergency make sure there is a mooring
ring or similar device on your boat to tie the mooring line to.
Always wear a life jacket on deck. The lock monitors marine traffic
on VHP Channel 13. The lock operators have been given the same authority
over your boat as traffic policemen have over you car at intersections.
For your own safety, you must obey their instructions. Wait for the
lock operator's signa before untying mooring lines to leave the lock
Travel at reduced speeds when you enter and leave the lock. Remember,
the locks are a "no wake" zone
* The first operating locks in the state of Texas.
* Today, an average of 32 tows a day transit the locks.
* The average tonnage brought through the locks in a single day is
55,000. This represents products ranging from gasoline, chemicals, to
* Over 20 million tons of product a year transits the locks pushed by
over 11,000 tugs a year.
* Lock chambers are approximately 1200 feet in length by 75 feet wide.
Significance of the Gulf Intra
The Gulf Intra coastal Waterway is vital to the nation's economy.
This major transportation artery spans the 5 Gulf Coast states,
and carries one-third the freight of all U.S. waterways. Ensuring
that this Waterway is protected, maintained and improved guarantees
the future of many businesses and individuals depending on its
efficiency and economy.
It is estimated that transportation makes up as much as 25% of
the cost we pay for goods. If the future of the Waterway is jeopardized,
prices for commercial and consumer goods could increase to potentially
prohibitive points, negatively impacting both businesses and individuals.
||Transportation makes up as much
as 25% of the cost we pay for goods.
|The Gulf Intra coastal Waterway carries
one-third the freight of all U.S. waterways
What is the GICA?
The Gulf Intra coastal Canal Association was formed in 1905, to
promote the idea of a single channel that would connect all major
Gulf Coast ports. That concept materialized 44 years later, with
the opening of the Gulf Intra coastal Waterway.
The explicit mission of the GICA is to ensure that
the Waterway is protected, operated, maintained and improved to
provide the safest, most efficient, economical and environmentally-sound
water transportation route in our nation. It is the only organization
with this as its primary purpose.
What Does the GICA Do?
The GICA fulfills its mission in a number of ways:
• Promoting the value of inland waterway transportation
• Partnering with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and
U.S. Coast Guard to ensure lawmakers are aware of
priorities and budgetary needs
• Working with the Coast Guard, Corps of Engineers
and other agencies to identify, correct and prevent
physical hazards to navigation on the Waterway and its
• Handling specific navigation problems on the Water
way, including closures and obstructions
• Securing improvements to the Gulf Intra coastal Water
way that increase efficiency and safety, or otherwise
enhance the movement of tows and other vessels
between it and connecting waterways
• Protecting against efforts that threaten maintenance
and improvement of the Waterway
• Serving as a conduit for two-way communication
between agencies and members
• Speaking as the collective voice of industry on items
affecting the Waterway's operation and maintenance
• Working closely with governmental agencies response
bale for, and private sector groups interested in, pre
serving, protecting, and restoring coastal wedands
along the Waterway.
• Protecting Sargent Beach, preventing the Gulf from
breaching the Waterway
• Obtaining approval to replace the congested New-
Orleans Industrial Lock
• Obtaining approval to straighten the accident-prone
Forked Island Wiggles
• Having the Galveston Causeway Railroad Bridge design
nated as a hazard to navigation, paving the way to
secure federal funds for its widening
• Working with the Corps of Engineers and others to
keep the southern section of the Waterway open and
maintained below Corpus Christi
Whose primary purpose is to
protect, maintain and improve
' Assisting the Corps of Engineers to identify and prioritize
maintenance dredging along the Waterway
1 Preserving barge lanes as the Houston Ship Channel is widened
1 Conducting an annual survey of navigation hazards
1 Installing tow mooring buoys at strategic locations along the
1 Securing emergency dredging at select sites along the Waterway
1 Insuring the voice of commercial navigation is heard in the
Lower Atchafalaya Basin Study and Houma Hurricane Protection Plan
' Devising more efficient routing of the Waterway in select sections,
such as Matagorda Bay
' Identifying channel marking deficiencies and needs for additional
aids to navigation along the entire length of the Waterway
1 Removing certain hazards to navigation, such as sunken barges,
obstructions, blinding lights and jagged concrete bank linings
The GICA Needs You!
The Gulf Intracoastal Waterway impacts far more people than those
whose jobs or companies directly depend on it. The diversity of
our membership reflects that. Anyone who benefits from the Waterway
in any capacity is welcome to join. We hold one Annual Convention
each fall, rotating locations among the 5 Gulf Coast states. These
meetings present a great opportunity for learning, and facilitate
the sharing of information between the many diverse member groups
Our responsibilities are numerous and growing. The GICA, for instance,
has assumed the duty of handling navigation problems — a
job previously managed by the American Waterways Operators. The
GICA depends upon dues from its members to staff this growing
list of initiatives — none of which anyone would want to
see abandoned. Healthy membership is critical to the future of
this Association, and that of the Waterway itself The GICA is
the only organization addressing the majority of issues affecting
the Waterway, making its survival all the more important.
The cost of membership is far less than the cost of losing access
to the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway. Our efforts must be consistently
funded, monitored and managed to ensure its future. When making
your decision, ask where your business would be if not for the
Gulf Intracoastal Waterway.
For More Information: Gulf Intracoastal Canal Association
2010 Butler Drive
Friendswood, TX 77546
Voice: 281.996.6915 / Fax: 281.992.4383
The Lock Master going against the flow of water through the
Economy of Scale
Inland barge transportation is easily the lowest-cost carrier
when compared to land-based alternatives such as truck or rail.
Because of its very large cargo capacity, one standard inland
barge can carry the same freight that would otherwise require
15 railcars or 60 trucks! Even more significant is the fuel efficiency
of water-based transportation. A barge can move one ton of cargo
514 miles with one gallon of fuel. A railcar can carry the same
cargo only 202 miles, and a truck can carry it only 60 miles.
As you can imagine, any shift of cargo from water to land-based
transportation would increase the cost of many goods, including
common consumer items, several-fold. By keeping costs down, barge
transportation benefits virtually all consumers, and also enables
our nation's products to compete in the global market.
Barges Go the Extra Miles!
Distance one gallon of fuel carries one ton of cargo
60 miles by truck
202 miles by rail
514 miles by barge
Safety in (Small) Numbers
Barge transportation is statistically the safest mode for moving
goods. This is true for several reasons. First, every barge on
the water means 15 fewer railcars or 60 fewer trucks on land.
With fewer vehicles on our roads and railways, there is less congestion,
and less probability for accidents.
Second, barges keep hazardous cargo away from highly populated
areas. In the unlikely event of an accident, a barge carrying
dangerous cargo poses much less of a threat than a similar accident
involving a train or truck in a densely-populated area.
And finally, in comparing barge, truck and rail transportation,
barges have the fewest number of accidents per unit of cargo moved.
This could be attributed to
several factors. They are slower moving, allowing more time to
act in preventing a collision. Also, because of their great capacity,
fewer barges are required to move a given load. This results in
less congestion on the waterways than on our highways, and less
chance for an accident to happen.
Barge transportation creates just a fraction of the noise and
air pollution produced by railcars and trucks. It does nothing
to further burden our already congested roadways. In fact, every
one barge eases congestion by keeping 15 railcars off the tracks
or 60 trucks off the road!
Barges Produce Less Pollution
Pounds produced to move one ton of cargo one thousand miles Barge
Hydrocarbons .09 .46 .63
Carbon Monoxide .20 .64 1.90
Oxides of Nitrogen .53 1.83 10.17
EPA Emission Control Lab
Barge transportation is the logical solution to our nation's growing
traffic, safety, and environmental concerns.