Authorization: Authorized as a part of the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System in the River and Harbor Act approved July 24, 1946; Project Document HD 758, 79th Congress, 2d Session. Public Law 88-62, approved July 8, 1963, changed the name from Short Mountain Lock and Dam to Robert S. Kerr Lock and Dam.
Location: On the Arkansas River at navigation mile 336.2, about 8 miles south of Sallisaw in LeFlore County, Oklahoma.
Purpose: Navigation, hydroelectric power, fish and wildlife, and recreation.
History of Construction: Construction began in April 1964. Closure occurred in October 1970. The lock and dam became operational for navigation in December 1970. Power units 1, 2, 3, and 4 were placed on line on October 5, July 27, September 1, and November 2, 1971, respectively. A Turbine and Generator Rehabilitation began in 2020.
Type of Structure: The dam is constructed of rolled earth-filled material. The total length of the structure, including the spillway, powerhouse intake, and navigation lock, is 7,230 feet. The maximum height is 75 feet above the streambed. There is a service road to the right embankment and an access road to the lock in the left embankment.
Spillway & Outlet Works: A gated, concrete, ogee weir type spillway extends partly across the existing river channel and a portion of the right bank between the power improvements and the navigation lock. The spillway weir has a net length of 900 feet and is surmounted by eighteen 50- by 44-foot-high tainter gates. The gates are separated by seventeen 10-foot piers, which support a 5-foot-wide service roadway bridge. The spillway has a capacity of 1,542,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) at the maximum pool elevation (19.5 feet above the top of the power pool). Robert S. Kerr hydropower capacity (when all 4 units are available) is between 34,000-41,000 cfs (full overload is ~41,000 cfs). At the time of this document’s publication, it has been several years since they had all 4 units working. While repairs are underway, it may still be several more before they get all 4 working properly again.
Lock: The lock, located on the left of the spillway, is a single-lift, Ohio River type with culvert and port filling system and has a chamber 110 feet wide by 600 feet long with a normal lift of 48 feet.
Powerhouse: The powerhouse is an integral-type structure with four 27,500-kW Kaplan-type units having a total capacity of 110,000 kW.
Hydrologic Data: The flood of record occurred in May 1943 (pre-construction) with an estimated peak discharge at the dam site of 810,000 cfs.