McAlpine Plan Finalized, Salvage Work Begins

The Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Coast Guard accepted a salvage plan developed by salvors Big River Salvage and McKinney Salvage to retrieve barges pinned against the McAlpine Dam on the Ohio River at Louisville, Ky.

Normal 24-hour navigation at McAlpine Locks resumed January 9. The barges are wedged against the dam, which is separate from the locks.

The trapped barges remain from a Christmas Day incident in which the towing vessel mv. Debbie Graham, pushing a tow of 15 coal barges, struck the Second Street Bridge also known as the George Rogers Clark Memorial Bridge. The incident left nine barges pinned against the dam. Seven of the nine barges later capsized.

The salvage crews, under contract with Tennessee Valley Towing, are staged at the upper McAlpine Dam site and began initial work January 9. Katy Newton, public affairs spokeswoman for the Louisville Engineer district, told The Waterways Journal that the timeline for completing operations depends on changing conditions that must be assessed daily.

The work involves removing coal from the sunken barge above the fixed weir portion of the dam closest to the Indiana bank. The coal is being loaded onto empty barges at the scene. Salvage and recovery of the three barges closest to the Indiana bank will begin once the cargo has been removed.

Removal of the remaining barges requires the installation of anchor points in the Indiana bank. Installation of those anchors was expected to begin by the middle of the week.

The Corps will continue to work with all parties to ensure that the salvage operations are conducted as safely and efficiently as possible.

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