An overnight barge accident has brought shipping on the Columbia River to a sudden halt. Vessel traffic between the inland Northwest and Portland will probably be severed for the next three weeks. Correspondent Tom Banse has reaction.
The accident involved an empty grain barge being pushed upriver through the locks at John Day Dam.
The barge hit a lock gate causing “quite a bit of structural and mechanical damage” according to the Army Corps of Engineers.
The Corps has notified shipping interests the locks will stay closed for repairs until March 22nd. There’s no on-the-water detour.
Kristin Meira represents Columbia River ports and shippers in the Pacific Northwest Waterways Association.
Kristin Meira: “If there’s an extended outage – and that’s a big if – the movement of wheat and barley downstream to our lower Columbia River export ports could be affected, as well as petroleum and fertilizer products and also garbage moving upstream on the system.”
For the time being though, Meira says the outage looks manageable. Barge and tow companies had already anticipated a two-week river shutdown in mid-March for annual maintenance on the dam locks.