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USACE and Thalle Construction Company hold partnership meeting in Paducah

Nashville District
Published Feb. 7, 2024
Young man smiles and speaks into a microphone in an event hall while seated.

Dustin Burkett speaks his mind while Guy Greco facilitates the Kentucky Lock partnering session on January 31, 2024 in Paducah, Kentucky.

Construction site for navigation lock, with several people leaning over and looking down on the right side.

Group of executives tour the Kentucky Lock construction site near Paducah, Kentucky on February 1, 2024.

Man stands in an event hall near a podium with people sitting at tables lining the room.

Guy Greco facilitates the Kentucky Lock partnering session in Paducah, Kentucky.

A row of people sit in an event hall at a table with table name tags.

TVA employees Mike Morrison and Ben Sollman listen in on the Kentucky Lock partnering session in Paducah, Kentucky.

Three middle aged men sit at a table in an event hall.

Lt. Col. Robert W. Green, Nashville District commander sits with Phillip Johnson, Lakes and Rivers Division Regional Business Director, and Steve Kohler, President and Chief Operating Officer of Thalle Construction Company during the Kentucky Lock partnering session in Paducah, Kentucky.

On January 31, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District and Thalle Construction Company met for their third full Kentucky Lock partnering session in Paducah, Kentucky. The purpose was to reinforce a successful partnership between the two as they collaborate to build an additional 1200-foot navigation lock at Tennessee Valley Authority’s Kentucky Lock & Dam. It provided them a forum to discuss the current state of the project, review 2023, evaluate the governance process and develop next steps going forward in 2024.

The partnership meeting was facilitated by Guy Greco, a professional in executive leadership. His areas of expertise are the design and delivery of leadership and organizational effectiveness programs and facilitating strategic planning sessions for senior executives. He led robust discussion between the nearly 40 participants, keeping it candid, respectful, and focused on solutions. The highest-ranking individuals present were the USACE Lakes and Rivers Division Acting Regional Business Director Phillip Johnson, and the Thalle Construction President and Chief Operating Officer Steve Kohler.

“A good day,” said Kohler. “I’ll leave here today 100% convinced the talent on both sides of the table is different than I’ve seen, ever, on a USACE project. I will commit to continue to support the team, resources, equipment, manpower and talent to continue to make us better. We want to be great.”

“We have a team here that’s committed to going from good to great,” said Lt. Col. Robert W. Green, Nashville District commander. “That is not easy. I think it’s easier to go from mediocre to good, than to really polish the team and polish your effort and go from good to great. That’s going to take some friction and work, but this is the most talented team I’ve seen in the Corps of Engineers for a single project.”

The ongoing project consists of a new 110-foot by 1200-foot lock adjacent to the existing 110-foot by 600-foot lock at the TVA owned Kentucky Lock and Dam located near Paducah, Kentucky. The existing navigation lock allows nine barges to enter at a time, which is too small to meet current and future traffic demands without significant delays. Kentucky Lock’s delays are among the highest in the country and can cost businesses upwards of $100,000 per day. In the last three years, the average delay for vessels transiting the lock has been over 9 hours. The addition of a new, larger lock, which allows 15 barges at a time, will eliminate those delays well into the future. Kentucky Lock passes approximately 57 million tons annually, valued at over $10 billion. Depending on markets, around 300 or more barges pass through per year. The Kentucky Lock project benefits the local economy by employing local workers and using concrete mixed onsite with materials from the environmental surroundings.

Some of the accomplishments discussed at the partnering session included: the 60,556 cubic yards of concrete placed, the 825.5 tons of rebar installed, and the 616,502 man hours worked. One highlight was the pride both parties had in the stellar safety record being maintained. A challenge they agreed on mitigating moving forward was the quality control process, making sure to more fully implement the Thalle quality control program to ensure quality control personnel are heavily involved in both the planning and day-to-day construction.

The last line of the project’s mission statement reads: “Success by this TEAM, in this arena, will continue a long-standing tradition and demonstrate the enduring tenacity and grit of the American workforce.”

“My word of the day is grit,” said Johnson. “This is hard business, and it takes grit and determination to grind through all the issues given the complexity of this project. I’m impressed with the professionalism and the unemotional approach to solving problems by this team.”

The projected operational completion of the Kentucky Lock project is 2029.