Tag Archives: Greers Ferry

Eric Gillespie, Lockmaster and USACE Diver

Position: Lockmaster/USACE Diver

Years with SWL: 18

Hometown: Heber Springs, AR

Education: High School/Military

Certifications: USACE Working Diver, Diving Supervisor, CPR, AED, Dan 02 Emergency Oxygen Provider, Rigger, Signalman, Lock Operator Certified

Hobbies: Hunting, Fishing, Mud Riding with my boys


Q:  You have been with the district 18 years, how has your job changed over the years?

A:  The biggest change has been going from a Wage Grade employee to a Supervisor. Not only am I accountable for myself and my actions, but I’m accountable for my Locks and the men that work for me.

Q:  What positions have you held in the district?

A: Maintenance Mechanic at Ozark Power House

River Harbor Maintenance Worker at Dardanelle Maintenance Terminal

Rigger at Dardanelle Maintenance Terminal

Rigger on the M/V Shorty Baird

Lock and Dam Operator at Murray Lock and Dam

Quality Assurance & Quality Control Inspector in Iraq

Lock Leader/Mechanic at Murray Lock and Dam

Lockmaster over Murray and Toad Suck Ferry Locks

USACE Diver/Dive Supervisor
Q: What was your favorite job position and why?

A: Lock and Dam Operator

I would say it has been my favorite position because it was just me running the lock and dam. If something happened then it was on me to take care of it. I enjoyed the quiet time when on shift by myself, you come in do your job and go home. It doesn’t get much easier than that.

 Q:  What are your short and long term professional and personal goals?

A:  Professional –

My short term goal is to make the locks I’m over a better place to work and get the team and family atmosphere back in the locks.

My long term goal is to get back into hydro power and be the third generation Gillespie to retire from Greers Ferry Power House

A:  Personal –

Short and Long term goal is to be the best husband and father to my wife and kids, and to give them everything I can while the good Lord gives me the opportunity too.

Q:  What do you do to instill your veteran knowledge in new employees?

A:  I try to lead by example, there is nothing I would ask my guys to do that I haven’t done or won’t do. I will be right beside them no matter what the job is, teaching them what I know and learning new things and ways to do things together as a team.

Q:  What do you enjoy most about your job?

A:  Working hard to make things better for my guys at the locks and the divers on the dive team

Q:  What projects are you working on now and what are some of the challenges?

A:  Underwater inspections of the Center Post Receivers to determine if they are good or bad so we can set lock closure to preform much needed maintenance. The biggest challenge is the fact that you have zero visibility in the river so you just can’t look at it and say yes it’s good.

Q:  What has been your favorite project you have worked on?

A:   I would have to say my favorite project would be the 2015 dewater at Montgomery Point Lock, we finished the dewater two and a half weeks earlier than scheduled. I felt like I accomplished something every day when I left work.

Q:  What ways have you found to balance your home life with the busy schedule you have at work?

A:  Leave work at the gate when you leave at the end of the day to go home, it will be there when you get back. Enjoy home when you are at home.

Q:  Tell us something about yourself we don’t know?

A:   Anyone that knows me knows I’m pretty straight forward, what you see is what you get. Don’t ask if you don’t want to know, cause I’ll shoot you straight

Burn Ban dampens camping this season

More than half the counties in Arkansas are currently under a burn ban because of dry weather conditions, with the number increasing weekly.

As of Nov. 28 the counties in red are in a burn ban.

Although county judges approved the ban, the U.S Army Corps of Engineers recreation sites follow and enforce the ban.

“Burn bans are determined and put in place by the local county judge based off the information he receives from local subject matter experts,” said Scotty Ashlock, natural resource specialist at Lake Dardanelle, Little Rock District USACE. “Our role is to follow and enforces the ban. We don’t add or take away from any of the guidance put out by the forestry commission.”

One of the challenges during the burn ban is that open flames are prohibited. Since fires are a cornerstone of camping and something many families enjoy, rangers thought the ban would disappoint guests.

“Most visitors like to build campfires and sit around with their families, roast hot dogs, s’mores, and tell stories,” Gary Ivy, chief park ranger at Greers Ferry, Little Rock District USACE explained. “Some people may not want to camp if they can’t have a campfire.”

Like Greers Ferry, Ashlock explained how the ban impacts Dardanelle visitors.

“With cool nights, most folks want to build a campfire in the evenings and sit outside,” Ashlock said. “Unfortunately, during the ban they aren’t allowed.”

Interestingly enough, the ban hasn’t lowered the number of people visiting recreations sites. “We haven’t seen a decline at our campgrounds,” Ivy added. “We’ve actually seen an increase in campers this year.”

The same has happened at Dardanelle.

“Burn bans haven’t slowed down visitation,” Ashlock added. “We receive a few complaints about not being able to have a small fire, but most people are very understanding and compliant.”

While it may seem the ban only inconveniences guests, the park rangers have challenges too.

“The main challenge for park rangers is the time and effort it takes to stop and educate park visitors about the burn ban,” Ashlock said. “One of the main issues for visitors is cooking without campfires.”

Luckily guests can cook other ways.

”Gas grills are allowed,” Ashlock said. “We allow cooking with charcoal as long as it is fully contained in an elevated grill, fully extinguished and properly disposed of after use.”

In addition to educating guests park rangers have an even bigger issue on their hands.

“The ban keeps us from doing prescribed burns to enhance timber stands, wildlife habitat, and reduce fuel loading within our parks and timber stands,” Ivy said.

Personnel from Little Rock District conducted a prescribed burn. Currently prescribed burns aren’t allowed in more than half of Arkansas, which keeps park rangers from enhancing timbers stands. (courtesy photo)

Still, the good outweighs the bad.

“There are many positive aspects of a burn ban,” Ashlock said. “Burn bans protect against property damage and most importantly, injury or loss of life.”

In fact since conditions are so dry, one small spark could cause a forest fire.

“With the ban it keeps honest people from building fires that could result in a forest fire,” Ivy said.

Of course under the current conditions, throwing a cigarette on the ground could lead to a fire being started but Ivy explained how people can still smoke.

“Burn bans do not prohibit visitors from smoking but it’s already a violation to dispose of cigarettes on the ground,” Ivy said. “It’s already littering.”

So far burn ban violations haven’t been a problem.

“We haven’t had any issues in our campgrounds with small fires,” Ivy noted. “If an issue arose we would visit ask campers to put the fire out.”

Park rangers take multiple measures to inform guests of the ban it’s still a joint effort between USACE and city officials for enforcement.

“Once a county is placed in a burn ban, we post burn ban signs at the entrance of each park within that county,” Ashlock said. “If a visitor is in violation they can be cited by a park ranger for violation of posted restrictions. Also county and city police regularly patrol all of our parks and officers will issue citations to visitors who violate the burn ban.”

In the event guests are completely unaware of the ban park rangers will usually just give a warning.

“Typically we will warn the campers about having a fire and ask them to put it out,” Ivy said. “If we have to go back to visit with them a second time we will then issue a citation.”

Luckily if a wildfire started the emergency personnel are minutes away.

“If a fire were to escape we would contact the local fire department,” Ashlock said. “All of our parks are within close response time to either a city fire department or rural fire department.

For right now the ban won’t be lifted until conditions improve.

“Until our area receives a substantial amount of rainfall we will remain in a burn ban,” Ivy said.

Park rangers will continue to monitor websites and working with local officials.

We continue to monitor the status of burn bans by viewing the Arkansas Forestry Commission’s website and by staying in contact with local emergency management or sheriff’s office, Ashlock concluded.

For a daily county update on where burn bans are in effect go to