Final Barge Removed From Lower McAlpine Dam

A hopper barge has been successfully removed from McAlpine Dam, Ohio Mile 606.8. It was the last of three barges that became pinned against the lower dam after 10 barges broke away from a tow March 28.

Brad Stout, operations manager, locks and dams for the Louisville Engineer District, said the salvage contractor was able to pull the barge, which was filled with corn, away from the lower dam on April 20.

The barge remains partially sunken upstream of the dam, where crews are working to complete salvage efforts. The salvage fleet is currently working upstream of the lower dam site to float anchor barges before removing the hopper barge.

Recovery efforts included bringing in additional equipment, Stout said. Ingram Barge Company, which owned the barges but did not operate the tow involved, brought in T&T Marine Salvage of Galveston, Texas, to handle the operations.

The Coast Guard has not publicly identified the vessel from which the barges broke away. The accident remains under investigation by both the Coast Guard and the National Transportation Safety Board.

Louisville Metro Emergency Services previously reported the tow hit a stationary structure near the entrance of the Portland Canal. One barge was initially lodged against a railroad bridge, and three hit the dam. One of those, a tank barge loaded with 1,400 tons of liquid methanol, required monitoring of air and water quality samples multiple times daily until the methanol was safely transferred and the tank barge removed on April 8 with no leaks ever detected.

Removing the final barge required sinking two barges loaded with rock to use as anchor barges, Stout said. Crews cut holes in the damaged hopper barge’s head logs to secure a chain through it. The chain was then rigged to the anchor barges to pull the hopper barge out of the dam’s tainter gate with two chain pullers.

Crews have not been able to assess damage on the lower dam site due to both the removal operations involving the hopper barge and because of high water, Stout said.

“We don’t anticipate significant damage to the tainter gates as we were able to operate them to support the removal of the methanol and hopper barges from the dam,” he said. “A structural inspection will be conducted once salvage operations complete and the Ohio River recedes enough to safely access inside the tainter gates to inspect the integrity of the structure.”

Stout said there were no remaining impacts to navigation.