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Stuck barge sparks calls for dredging

Army Corps of Engineers awaits information from shipping company


Capital Press

A grain barge that ran aground demonstrates the need for Snake River dredging, an official at the Port of Clarkston says.

A Tidewater grain barge became stuck near Clarkston, Wash., for about four hours Dec. 19 on the Snake River.

According to Tidewater, the barge got stuck in soft mud. The barge was being towed by the tug Wallace E. and on its way from the Lewis Clark Terminal in Clarkston to Tidewater's terminal at the Port of Wilma at the Port of Whitman County.

Navigational charts indicate the tug was in an area with 20 feet of water. The barge has a draft of 13 feet, but due to apparent shoaling, the barge ran aground in the mud, according to the company.

The barge's capacity is 3,600 tons, said Carol Bua, communications manager for Tidewater.

There were no injuries or damage to the tug or barge.

"We think this just reinforces there is an ongoing need for dredging," Port of Clarkston manager Wanda Keefer said. "Sediments build up over time. They deposit themselves, mostly on the shore along the port. It's just a necessary part of maintaining the system."

The port is part of a group of advocates for dredging.

"The irony was we were having a phone call of advocates up and down the river system discussing when we could next dredge when the barge got stuck," Keefer said.

Federal funding is needed, Keefer said. The port would like to see dredging begin in December 2013.

Gina Baltrusch, spokesperson for the Walla Walla, Wash., district of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said the corps is awaiting further information from the company.

"Once we know where the vessel ran aground, then we can look at the river charts and see what the actual depth was in that location," she said. The corps will determine whether the area has been identified for future dredging.

The corps recently opened a public comment period for its Lower Snake River sediment management plan. The plan includes a proposal for immediate-need dredging action in specific locations along the channel.

The corps was operating Lower Granite Lake, the reservoir behind the Lower Granite Dam, at roughly two feet above the minimum operating level, Baltrusch said.


Tidewater: tidewater.com

Port of Clarkston: portofclarkston.com

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Walla Walla district: www.nww.usace.army.mil


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