The highway across Norfork Dam will undergo two months of off-and-on closures beginning Friday so that the U.S. Corps of Engineers can replace several tons of heavy winch machinery inside the aging infrastructure, transportation and project officials said.
There will be four periods of "intermittent full closures" to Arkansas 177 along the dam -- located about a mile east of Salesville -- but the northbound lane will be closed for the duration of the project, according to the Arkansas Department of Transportation.
The northbound lane of Arkansas 177 will close from 6:30 a.m. Friday through 5 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 1, while the full closures are tentatively scheduled for Sept. 11-14, Sept. 25-27, Oct. 16-19 and Oct. 30-Nov. 1, ArDOT officials said.
Baxter County Judge Kevin Litty said motorists shouldn't have much difficulty dealing with detours.
"It will be an inconvenience for some, but it's not going to be unmanageable," Litty said. "People will be able to take [Arkansas] 5 while the highway is closed."
During the full closures, traveling to areas south of the Norfork Dam will require a detour using Arkansas 5 through Norfork, then County Road 64 north back to Arkansas 177 at Jordan, according to ArDOT.
During the road closure, traffic lights will be set up to assist with the flow of traffic, but motorists should anticipate longer travel times, ArDOT officials said.
The Norfork Dam was completed in 1949 and it features two turbines that produce enough energy each year to power 17,000 homes. The dam also provides flood risk management, municipal water supply and recreational activities.
"The dam was built for flood control, but for some of us, it's all about recreation," Litty said. "Norfork Lake offers great fishing and a lot of other things. It draws a lot of tourists. ... I've met a lot of people who have a second home here in Baxter County."
Mark Case, the operations project manager of the dam project, said the motorized winch machinery needs to be replaced to raise and lower the gates so that the water can reach the generator. Those winches are located inside the top of the dam.
"To remove and re-install everything, we need large cranes for that ... and that's why we need access to the roadway at the top," he said.
Case added that the infrastructure has "reached the end of its life cycle," so it is having to undergo an extensive rehabilitation.
"We have numerous contractors working on this," he said. "We have to replace so much, including all of the cabling and breakers."