The Dalles Dam Lock Closed
by Michael Russell
The lock at The Dalles Dam will remain closed for at another week -- choking off traffic on the Columbia River -- while a crew repairs the lock's downstream gate, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced today.
The corps decided to keep the gate closed after draining the lock and finding significant cracking on the gate's butterfly doors.
"There's more (cracking) than we expected to find," said Diana Fredlund, a corps spokeswoman.
A crew will begin welding the cracks tonight, working 24 hours a day until the gate is stable enough to be reopened.
The repairs will not fix the gate, Fredlund said, but will buy the corps time until a more thorough fix is performed during a 14-week lock closure planned for late 2010.
Fredlund said a pintle bearing, which enables the lock to open, was involved in causing the cracking. Engineers decided Tuesday it was best to shut the lock down so they could drain the lock and take a closer look.
Rob Rich, Director of Administration at the Shaver Transportation Company, said about three quarters of his company's Columbia River barge fleet is currently anchored up- or downstream from the lock.
"We're thankful that it's repairable," Rich said. "We're looking at full operating costs with no revenue coming in to offset it until the river opens up again."
Two years ago, the corps installed sensors to monitor the gate. Those sensors, along with operators who reported the gate closing "differently," alerted corps engineers to the problem before it was too late to repair, Fredlund said.
Advanced American Construction, an industrial and diving services contractor, will work through the night to weld and bolt plates across the cracks.
Rich praised the corps for their quick work in addressing the problem.
"The corps is going way out of their way to get this done as soon as possible," he said. "You can't ask for more than 24 hour-a-day work."
According to the corps, the lock at The Dalles dam has been operating for 52 years. Boats are lifted almost 90 feet from the downstream to upstream sides of the lock. Each half of the downstream gate is 107-feet high, 43-feet wide and weighs 680,000 pounds.
More than 12 million tons of commodities, including wheat and petroleum, go through the lock on their way between Portland and Lewiston, Idaho, Fredlund said. About five to six vessels pass through the lock daily.
Lock Repair: John Day Dam Back in Business by Staff, The Oregonian, 10/29/8
John Day Lock Under Repair by Staff, Wheat Life, 5/8
Domestic Waterborne Commerce, Army Corps of Engineers, Transportation Energy Data 1970-2002
Snake River Freight Army Corps of Engineers, Government Report
Snake River Commodity Tonnage Army Corps of Engineers, Data from 1990-2003
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