Corps Races to Reopen
A crane slowly hoisted the bottom half of an 18-foot-diameter drum to the top of one of the 95-foot-tall towers standing beside the navigation lock at Ice Harbor Dam on Thursday morning.
It was one more step toward returning boat traffic to the Columbia and Snake rivers by a planned date of March 20.
The locks for the eight dams between Portland on the Columbia River and Lewiston on the Snake River were taken out of service Dec. 12 for a 14-week maintenance outage.
The Army Corps of Engineers plans an extended outage at the dams about every five years, with the last one in 2011. The outage was planned for the winter months to minimize disruption to shippers and others who use the 359-mile navigation channel.
Forty percent of the nation's wheat moves on the Snake and Columbia rivers, with goods of all kinds transported annually valued at $3 billion. The most common cargo are agricultural products, petroleum products and steel and other metal items.
At Ice Harbor Dam, the lock gates are raised and lowered an average of 1,381 times a year to allow commercial and recreational vessels to pass.
Knight Construction of Deer Park, Wash., was awarded the contract to replace the downstream gate hoist machinery at Ice Harbor, a project initially estimated at $4.7 million. The company has been working seven days a week, 12 hours a day to try to complete work on time and reopen the river to traffic.
The work may be more expensive, but the Corps said it is committed to reopening locks on schedule.
Current work on the downstream hoist machinery includes replacing a 2.5-ton overhead service crane with a 4-ton crane; replacing the shafts for the drums and replacing the electrical and controls equipment.\
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