On the test day, as the black puff of diesel smoke from the start-up of the 5,400-horse-power engines dissipated in the sky, water rushed from the first two flowerpot pump bays. Eight pumps were tested, two at a time, 10 minutes each.

“We know they [can] run four hours without problems,” Wagner says. “We anticipate they can run for three days.”

Dry weather made it necessary to close the sector and sluice gates and recirculate water. The drive system for the sector gate is not yet in place. By 2012, a 75-hp hydraulic motor, operated from a safe house in the station, will close it. But until that is installed, and for testing, a tugboat does the work. It took about10 minutes to shut each 750-ton leaf.

If a storm threatens and a storm surge is predicted, the Corps will close the gate 24 hours before landfall, Wagner says.

GIC began construction August 2009.The project is 83% complete, with 1.9 million man-hours and only one lost time incident, Fleming says.