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Breakaway Barges on Ohio River’s Portland Canal

Photo courtesy Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet

Breakaway Barges on Ohio River’s Portland Canal

Mike Schuler
Total Views: 4866
March 29, 2023

Some tense moments on the Portland Canal yesterday morning as a vessel towing 11 barges collided with a stationary structure near the McAlpine Lock and Dam in Louisville, Kentucky.

The impact caused 10 of the 11 barges to break free, with three of them coming to rest against the lower McAlpine Dam structure. The U.S. Coast Guard is currently investigating the circumstances surrounding the event.

In addition to carrying cargoes of soy and corn, one of the partially submerged barges is carrying approximately 1,400 metric tons of methanol in one its three independent cargo holds, posing a potential environmental risk.

The Portland Canal is a narrow, man-made waterway located in Louisville, Kentucky, that connects the Ohio River’s main channel to the McAlpine Locks and Dam, facilitating the passage of commercial and recreational vessels around the Falls of the Ohio River.

So far, authorities have confirmed that there is no evidence of a tank breach or leaks, and both air and water monitoring resources are in place to ensure safety.

The top priority for all parties involved remains the safety of the public and first responders. Thankfully, there has been no impact on Louisville Water’s water intake or quality. The river waterway remains open, with local vessel traffic services facilitating navigation.

A Unified Command has been established to coordinate the response, led by the U.S. Coast Guard Sector Ohio Valley and the Louisville Metro Government Emergency Management Agency. The Kentucky Environment and Energy Cabinet is closely monitoring water quality, while CTEH oversees air quality assessments.

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