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Bonneville Navigation Lock to reopen as soon as Friday night

The Bonneville Navigation Lock could reopen to river traffic as early as Friday night, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, ending a three-week closure caused by an emergency repair project.

In a press release on Thursday, the Corps announced that repairs are complete and the lock will return to service at some point between 10 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. Saturday, depending on the results of final testing.

The lock was previously scheduled to reopen on Monday, but favorable weather conditions accelerated the pace of the repair project, the Corps said.

“Our engineers and experts have identified this 12-hour window as our target reopening,” said Liza Wells, chief of Engineering and Construction at the Corps’ Portland District. “We are currently working with the U.S. Coast Guard, which manages river traffic, and all river users to ensure safe and timely passage through the lock.”

The lock was closed three weeks ago when operators reported that something was interfering with the movement of the downstream gates. Engineers from the Portland division of the Corps determined that cracks had formed on the concrete sill below the gates, which is designed to create a watertight seal when they close.

The lock was drained for repairs, which involved demolishing nearly the entire sill and building a replacement. Earlier this week the Corps announced in a Facebook post that crews had finished pouring all of the concrete for the new sill and were waiting for it to cure.

The speedy reopening will be welcome news for companies that rely on the Columbia River for shipping. The lock is the only route for river traffic to pass the Bonneville Dam, and the emergency closure paralyzed traffic up and down the river.

Regular maintenance closures are announced months in advance, but this closure came with no warning in the midst of wheat harvest season, when barges make frequent trips down the river carrying millions of tons of grain to the Port of Vancouver and other export terminals.

United Grain Inc., one of the larger companies impacted by the closure, is paying a ship to idle at the Port of Vancouver while they wait for the grain. Three more are expected to arrive on Monday, the company said last week.

“Pleased to hear that the Army Corps of Engineers has made such quick repairs,” wrote United Grain spokeswoman Stephanie McClintock in a statement. “Fortunately, we were able to mitigate disruption to our supply chain during this time. We are very thankful that the lock is repaired and we can resume business as usual.”

Regular maintenance closures are announced months in advance, but this closure came with no warning in the midst of wheat harvest season, when barges make frequent trips down the river carrying millions of tons of grain to the Port of Vancouver and other export terminals.


Source: https://www.columbian.com

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