Crews Prepare To Offload Barge Pinned On McAlpine Dam

More than a week after barges broke loose from a tow and became pinned against McAlpine Dam, a salvage crew was preparing to begin pumping 1,400 metric tons of liquid methanol from one of them into a relief barge.

The Coast Guard closed the site at Ohio River Mile 606.8 to downbound traffic during daylight hours as crews worked to stabilize the barge, allowing traffic to pass at night. Air and water tests continued to show no methanol leaking, but the barge was partially sunken and pinned against the lower portion of the dam, according to Louisville Emergency Management. A hopper barge containing corn also remained pinned.

Both the Coast Guard and the National Transportation Safety Board were investigating.

Previously, emergency managers said that, if released, the methanol could cause a fish kill up to 15 miles downstream. Because of the position of water intakes for Louisville, Ky., upstream of the site, no municipal water supplies would be affected, they said.

Shortly after 2 a.m. March 28, 10 of 11 barges in a tow broke free from a vessel after a collision with a stationary structure near the entrance to the Portland Canal, according to the Coast Guard. Three of them initially were pinned against the dam, one against a railroad bridge and the others were scattered but recovered by other vessels in the area. One of the barges pinned against the dam and the one that hit the railroad bridge were removed within hours.

The Coast Guard has declined to provide information about the vessel involved or the owner. The barges belonged to Ingram Barge Company but was not operating the tow. Ingram has brought in T&T Salvage to direct the cleanup. T&T referred all questions to Ingram Barge Company.

Louisville Emergency Management has set up a unified command center with the Coast Guard. Updates on progress to free the barges and the results of air and water quality tests are being posted to