Corps plan to reopen the lock at John Day Dam

Corps plan to reopen the lock at John Day Dam

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans today to reopen the lock at the John Day Dam and restore traffic on the Columbia River.

The corps closed the lock and shut down navigation on the river after a barge hit the gate on the upstream side of the lock at about 11 p.m. Thursday. The barge caused significant damage to the gate, but there were no injuries.

The corps removed the damaged gate Sunday and by 6 p.m. today will reopen the lock to river traffic under restricted operations.

The dam is about 28 miles east of The Dalles, just below the confluence of the Columbia and John Day rivers. The navigation lock is near the Washington shoreline. The lock raises and lowers vessels so they can pass through the dam. Vessels enter a gate at one end of the lock, which then raises or lowers water to the appropriate level so the vessel can exit from the opposite gate.

A corps team on Sunday lowered a remote operating vehicle equipped with cameras into the lock chamber to assess the underwater situation.

Dwane Watsek, the Portland District operations chief, said the federal agency wanted to be certain there was no debris or other hazards once the gate was removed.

Watsek said the corps team didn't find any danger and it gave the OK for the tug Sundial to move its barges upstream of the lock under its own power. The tug left the lock chamber just after 3 p.m. Sunday.

The corps contracted two cranes to lift the 125-ton upper gate out of its housing and place it on two barges. The damaged gate will remain at the John Day project until corps engineers determine if the gate can be repaired or must be replaced.

Watsek said the corps is pleased with the professionalism of its employees and the crane crews.

"The goal was to safely remove the gate and place it on the barges. That happened and now we can focus on getting the lock gate repaired," he said.

Corps crews are preparing a temporary floating bulkhead that will act as a gate, allowing the lock to reopen. The crew will use a boat to float the bulkhead into place. After the temporary gate is in place, traffic will be able to pass through, albeit slower than usual.

Watsek said during normal operations it takes about 20 minutes for a vessel to lock through. That time will extend to about 90 minutes with the temporary gate.

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