COLUMBIA RIVER GORGE, OR (KPTV) - Work is underway at Bonneville Dam in the Columbia River Gorge. Last week part of the lock system cracked. The navigational locks have been closed ever since and there is currently no estimate on when they will be back up and running.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said a vessel was in the lock system last week when lock operators noticed an issue with the water levels.
A spokesperson said that once the operators noticed the issue they quickly got the boat through the system and shut the lock down. Inspectors found a cracked sill at the bottom of the lock. The sill is a massive concrete block that meets the 95-foot tall gates when they close to seal off and hold back water.
Since then the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been working on a fix. On Monday and Tuesday, they demolished the sill and are now working on a plan to fix it. They were hoping to be able to formulate a plan to fix it once demolition was done.
“We don’t want to rush to failure and if we go to fast and we don’t fix it properly then the lock will be down for even an extended period of time,” Alan Davis with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said.
Every day the Corps says roughly 8-10 vessels travel through the lock system at Bonneville Dam. Everything from fuel to wood chips to wheat travel by barg or boat down the Columbia River.
Shipping Companies like Tidewater Transportation, who use the river daily, have halted some of its operations on the river.
The company issued the following statement.
Given the unplanned Bonneville navigation lock outage, Tidewater Transportation and Terminal’s long-haul Columbia and Snake River tug and barging operations through the eight river dams have been halted. Marine crewman directly associated with these operations have been temporarily sent home.
The US Army Corps of Engineers is actively working to define a plan to have the Bonneville lock repaired and returned to service. When we know that timing, Tidewater will respond with a plan to return to offer full tug and barge services up and downriver. We have absolute confidence in the US Army Corps of Engineers to repair the crack in the navigation lock’s sill plate and have the river highway up and running as expeditiously as possible.
Tidewater’s Columbia River harbor business, the Tidewater Environmental Services business (West Coast Marine), and their Canadian subsidiary, Island Tug and Barge, are unaffected by the closure at this time.
"Tidewater has been safely and efficiently transporting commodities on the Columbia-Snake River System for 87 years and will continue to do so once the Bonneville navigation lock is operational once again," the company’s President Bob Curcio said. "This Bonneville lock outage is “just a small bump in the road, before we’re up and running again for our clients.”
The US Army Corps of Engineers is regularly communicating the outage status with Tidewater and other river system stakeholders. For updates on the lock repairs, we recommend following the US Army Corps of Engineers’ twitter feed and/or visit the Corps Facebook page.
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