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Closure of Holt Lock Disrupts Coal Transport on Alabama’s Black Warrior River



July 1, 2024 - The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Mobile District, has announced the closure of the Holt Lock to navigation starting at noon on Saturday, June 22, 2024. This decision follows an initial stability analysis conducted by the Mobile District Engineering team, which identified critical stability issues with the monolith structure of the lock.

The findings of the analysis, which were based on existing data and certain assumptions, indicated significant safety risks for both the personnel operating the lock and the waterway users. As a result, the USACE determined that closing the lock was necessary to ensure the safety and well-being of all stakeholders.

Col. Jeremy Chapman, the Mobile District Commander, emphasized the USACE’s commitment to addressing the stability issues promptly and efficiently. “We are fully committed to addressing the stability issues at the Holt Lock promptly and efficiently, just as we successfully managed the Demopolis Lock closure project. Our team is already mobilizing resources and expertise to develop and implement a plan,” said Col. Chapman. “Ensuring the safety of our personnel and waterway users is our highest priority, and we will work diligently to restore safe operations at Holt Lock as quickly as possible.”

The USACE acknowledges the inconvenience this closure may cause and appreciates the patience and cooperation of the waterway users and the community. The Corps will provide regular updates on the progress of the remediation efforts and the anticipated timeline for reopening the lock. The safety of personnel and the public remains the top priority during this period.

As the remediation plan develops, stakeholders can expect continued communication from the USACE regarding the steps being taken to restore the lock to safe operational status and the expected duration of the closure.


This closure is the second major disruption this year to river navigation routes critical to Alabama’s coal industry. Earlier, in January, a lock failure at Demopolis, Alabama, shut down the primary river route connecting coal mines to the Port of Mobile. This disruption significantly impacted barged coal transportation from Peabody Energy’s Shoal Creek mine as well as Warrior’s #4 and #7 mines, forcing the latter to switch entirely to rail transport. The Demopolis Lock remained non-operational for approximately four months, from mid-January to mid-May.

With the Holt Lock and Dam now out of service, these companies once again find themselves in the same situation. Warrior Met Coal will again switch to rail, while Peabody Energy must seek alternative transportation methods as the Tombigbee River junction will not be accessible this time around.

The duration of the closure remains uncertain as the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) conducts a thorough evaluation of the damage. Although local news reports suggest that repairs could take several months, official confirmation from the USACE is still pending. This prolonged outage could have significant economic implications, disrupting coal supply chains and increasing transportation costs.