Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Four barges sink at Dam 25 in Winfield, Mo.

St. Louis, Mo. – March 8, 2011:  The Corps of Engineers is using an additional guide boat at Lock and Dam 25 to assist tows bound downriver after four loaded barges broke loose and sank Sunday.

While the barges are not in the navigation channel, their location has altered the current enough that a smaller “helper boat” has been brought in to assist tows entering the lock chamber from the upstream side. The extra utility boat will help keep barges headed downriver pressed up against the lockwall.  Without it, the currents could pull the barges toward the dam.

Four loaded barges being pushed downstream by Motor Vessel Julie White impacted the river wall bullnose while approaching Lock 25 Sunday.  The four barges loaded with gravel broke free and sank.  They are currently resting against piers on the dam and pose no risk to navigation or the dam’s structure.  There were no injuries. 

The incident occurred at period of high flows on the Mississippi River, when Dam 25 is operating in a condition referred to as “open river,” meaning that all of the dam’s 17 gates are out of the water.  Since the incident, all the gates have been tested and are in working condition; however, one of the barges is resting partially in one of the gate bays, preventing that gate from being lowered.

Lock and dam structures on the Mississippi River and many other rivers of the Nation’s Inland Waterway System, like Lock and Dam 25 at Winfield, Mo., are purely navigation structures.  They are termed low flow structures, designed to maintain the congressionally mandated minimum nine-foot deep navigation channel and do not serve to provide any flood protection.

“This has been an unfortunate incident, thankfully there weren’t any deckhands on the barges when they broke loose and sank,” said Andy Schimpf, Chief of Navigation for the Corps of Engineers’ St. Louis District.  “With the gates all the way open like they are, the currents are strong and turbulent as the water rushes through the dam.”

MV Julie White is part of ARTCO Towing’s fleet.  The loaded barges were being delivered to Lemont, Ill., on the Illinois and Michigan Canal near Chicago.

“The main concern is not as much how strong the currents are. A bigger factor is that the currents are moving in directions that towboat pilots aren’t used to,” said Schimpf.

ARTCO and Corps of Engineers personnel are meeting with and salvaging company today to assess the barges and determine the best and safest way to remove them.  The U.S. Coast Guard is currently investigating the cause of the incident.

For more information contact:
George Stringham, 314-331-8068 / 314-541-7112

1222 Spruce Street, St. Louis, MO 63103

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