Crews start removing loose barges from Ohio River

PITTSBURGH — UPDATE 4/17/24: The Coast Guard has lifted the safety zone and reopened river navigation between Emsworth Locks and Dam and Dashields Locks and Dam, according to Campbell Transportation.


ORIGINAL STORY: Edward Rhodes brought his 2-year-old son, Roman, up to see the trains along the Ohio River.

“But dad wants to see what’s going on with the dam,” Rhodes said “I saw the barges, and I was like oh my gosh. They’re still here? It’s been a couple days.”

Around 11:30 p.m. Friday, 26 barges broke loose on the Ohio River. Twenty-two contained coal, one was hauling fertilizer and the other three were empty. Campbell Transportation, the company that owns and operates the barges, started retrieving the seven that were stuck at the Emsworth Locks and Dam around 9:30 a.m. Tuesday.

>>> 26 barges break loose on Ohio River, cause damage to a marina

“The most important thing here, like I said, is not a matter of how long it takes for the removal,” said U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Pittsburgh District Spokesperson Carol Vernon. “It’s a matter of keeping everyone that is involved in the removal safe.”

There’s one barge that’s still along the bank in Kilbuck Township. Another barge is floating near the Dashields Dam and Channel 11 was previously told that one barge sunk somewhere between the Emsworth and Dashields Locks and Dams. That’s an area that spans about six miles. In a media release, Campbell Transportation said they’ve been using sonar technology to locate the missing barge and believe they’ve found it. But they’ll have to develop a plan to get it out of the river. Because of this underwater hazard, all navigation is still suspended in this area of the river.

“We developed a safety zone between Emsworth and Dashields until we can safely locate the sunken barge, and we’ll try to open it as early as we can,” said U.S. Coast Guard Chief of Waterways Management Lt. J.G. Eyobe Mills. “We want to open the river as early and as quickly as we can because we understand there’s a lot of industry that wants it open but again as of right now it’s not safe to do so.”

Channel 11 reached out to Campbell Transportation multiple times and will share any kind of updates we receive from the company.

The Coast Guard says the rain in the forecast over the next few days could impact recovery plans. Both the Coast Guard and the Army Corps of Engineers tell Channel 11 that any specifics about recovery plans need to come from Campbell Transportation.

The Army Corps of Engineers, which oversees the locks and dams, says it doesn’t appear that the barges damaged anything at the Emsworth or Dashields Locks and Dams. Structural engineers will eventually do an inspection.

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