Salvors Remove Barge Pileup on Ohio River
Over the weekend, the Coast Guard, the United States Army Corps of Engineers and private contractors continued the salvage response to a series of barge breakaways on the Ohio River. A logjam of barges and ice floes at the Emsworth Lock and Dam near Pittsburgh has shut down traffic on the upper reaches of the river, and the agencies are attempting to clear it so that navigation can resume.
“The United States Army Corps of Engineers and its contractors made significant progress in clearing ice from the approaches of Emsworth Lock and Dam’s chambers,” said Jeff Hawk, a spokesperson for the United States Army Corps of Engineers. “The Army Corps’ fleet and the contractor have ceased operations after completing the task of clearing space for operation of the lock’s miter gates.”
The Coast Guard cautioned marine operators to be cautious of heavy ice flows resulting from the ice breaking efforts at the dam. The main and auxiliary chambers at Emsworth are operational, but the lock remains closed while officials search for two sunken barges upstream of the locks. A full waterway closure is in effect from mile marker 2 to mile marker 20, upstream and downstream of the facility.
Preliminary assessments indicate there is no significant damage to the dam and no environmental concerns from pollution. A more thorough damage assessment will be completed after the wrecked barges are removed. The remaining 25 out of 27 breakaway barges from a fleeting facility at mile marker 4 have been accounted for.
Downriver, 34 more barges broke away from fleeting areas at mile marker 94, and all 34 have been located, including two in the channel. Commercial traffic on the river at mile 95 near Bellaire, West Virginia continues on a case by case basis. Salvage equipment has arrived on scene, and salvage operations are scheduled to begin Sunday. A full waterway closure is in effect from mile marker 95 to mile marker 105 due to the risk of channel obstructions.
The two barge breakaways occurred due to high water and heavy ice floes on the Ohio. The Coast Guard cautioned marine operators and fleeting facilities to secure barges, towboats and other vessels to their moorings with care.