Sunken Barge Closes Cumberland Southbound At Mile 2.6

Most southbound traffic on the Cumberland River between Barkley Lock and Dam and the Ohio River was halted for close to a week after a barge filled with rocks ran aground and sank March 18 at Mile 2.6, just downriver from Smithland, Ky.

The channel was expected to reopen March 27. Until then, only light-boat southbound traffic was permitted by the Coast Guard. Northbound traffic was unaffected. The mv. Lemont Trader was on-site and available on channels 16 or 21 to make passing arrangements.

The Lemont Trader, owned by Canal Barge Company, was downbound pushing 10 loaded rock barges when the starboard lead barge ran aground, said Steven Leighty, public affairs officer for Sector Ohio Valley in Louisville, Ky. The incident took place at 3:45 a.m. March 18.

“This barge ran up onto the bank, and since it was carrying a lot of rock, the barge fractured,” said Lt. Timothy Veach, chief of waterways management for Marine Safety Unit Paducah, which is handling the investigation.

He noted that although the investigation continued, a broadcast noticed to mariners for the past six weeks had advised them of high water and stronger than normal currents on the Cumberland and Tennessee rivers from Barkley Lock and Kentucky Lock to where they each meet the Ohio River.

The impact of the sinking was minimized because Barkley Lock, at Cumberland Mile 30.6, was scheduled to be closed for maintenance of the bio-acoustic fish fence at the lock approach from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. March 21-27, with most southbound traffic diverting through the canal to the Tennessee River and crossing at Kentucky Lock. However, he noted that two rock quarries and an asphalt plant located between Mile 2.6 and Barkley Dam were affected.

Okie Moore Diving and Marine Salvage was on-site to recover the sunken barge. Veach said that work was taking several days because the barge had to be cut in half, with sections then loaded onto an empty deck barge to take to salvage.