Unified Command Continuing Response to Barge Breakaways on Ohio River

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January 19, 2018

Breakaway barges stack up against the Emsworth Lock and Dam near Pittsburgh on Saturday, January 13, 2018. Photo: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

A unified command consisting of the Coast Guard, United States Army Corps of Engineers and industry partners is continuing its response to dozens of barge breakaways on the Ohio River near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Moundsville, West Virginia, due to ice and high water. 

25 of the 27 breakaway barges from Jack’s Run Fleeting area at mile marker 4 on the Ohio River near Pittsburgh have been accounted for. The two unaccounted-for barges are reported to be located above the dam.

Also, a reported 34 barges broke away from fleeting areas at mile maker 94 on the Ohio River near Moundsville and 34 barges have been located. There are a reported two barges in the channel.

The barges broke away last weekend due to ice and high water.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers awarded an emergency contract to Pittsburgh-based River Salvage Company on Thursday to assist with clearing ice against the lock gates at the Emsworth Lock and Dam, deemed critical to regaining operation of the lock gates and to clear a channel for recovery vessels.

A River Salvage crew arrived at the Emsworth Lock and Dam and joined the Army Corps’ regional repair fleet and industry towboats working to clear ice.There is currently heavy ice above the dam extending approximately one mile upriver.

On Thursday, U.S. Army Corp of Engineers surveyed the surrounding area with side-scan sonar to assess the condition of the channel and look for possible obstructions, while the Coast Guard conducted a survey of the area to monitor the location of the breakaway barges.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is continuing ice-breaking and removal operations at Emsworth Lock and Dam to open the area for salvage crews.

Mariners are advised to be cautious of potential heavy ice flows resulting from the ice breaking efforts at Emsworth Lock and Dam.

The Coast Guard continues to monitor the situation in both locations.

There are no reports of significant damage to Emsworth Lock and Dam and no environmental concerns from pollution.

Two safety zones, full waterway closures, have been established from mile marker 93 to mile marker 110 and mile marker 2 to mile marker 20 on the Ohio River due to risk of channel obstructions.

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