COLUMBIA RIVER The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has reopened traffic on the Columbia River at the John Day Dam sooner than expected after a barge damaged an upstream navigation lock gate.
After the barge collided with the gate on Feb. 28, officials immediately closed the busy lock, which sees about 10 million tons of cargo pass through annually. Initially it was feared that the lock would not reopen before a planned shutdown for yearly maintenance from March 8–22, but the Corps worked around the clock to install a temporary floating bulkhead. The lock reopened less than three days later.
“It is working, and we are very pleased that it’s working,” says Corps spokeswoman Diana Fredlund. “It’s not 100% yet, but there is a team working on it.”
A vessel can normally pass through the lock in about 20 minutes, but with the bulkhead, which must be towed into place by another boat, it takes 45 minutes to an hour. Even so, Fredlund says the temporary fix prevented losses that could have resulted if the route was closed in the days before the planned closure, when traffic generally picks up.
The gate was not fixed during the two-week maintenance period, and Fredlund says the bulkhead will likely remain for several months.
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