Crews Able to Begin Freeing Barge
by Eric Adams
HOOD RIVER, Ore. -- Crews were able to free a barge that ran aground on a silt bar in the Columbia River near the mouth of the Hood River
Coast Guard monitored the massive gasoline transfer from a grounded barge to another. Photos: Barge aground
The New Dawn has been stuck in a large silt deposit at the confluence of the Hood and Columbia rivers since early Thursday morning. The Coast Guard had been coordinating with the tug charter company and the Army Corps of Engineers for some 36 hours to refloat the vessel.
The transfer worked and the barge began moving off the bar Friday evening.
Tidewater Tugs and Barges, which operates the grounded New Dawn tanker, was managing the mid-river transfer of up to 119,000 gallons of gasoline per hour from one massive ship to another.
The trickiest option for refloating the New Dawn was to maneuver the gasoline transfer but it ultimately was the last alternative available.
Attempts to free the grounded barge New Dawn with additional tug boats were unsuccessful on Thursday, and the Coast Guard approved a plan for an empty fuel barge to be brought alongside the New Dawn to transfer gasoline in the middle of the river.
The New Dawn carried more than 1 million gallons of gasoline and had been stuck in the river since about 4 a.m. Thursday.
The process, known as lightering, posed significant environmental risks but was necessary to free the New Dawn from the river bottom, Lt. Ryan Harry said.
The transfer began just before 11 a.m., removing the tanker's gas load. A fuel boom, which looks like a large fire hose, was in place in the event of any spillage into the Columbia River.
No gas leaked, the Coast Guard said.
Crews ensured the barge's double hull had not been damaged and that no gas was seeping into the river. No gas sheen was visible from the river or from air Thursday, Lt. Harry said.
According to witnesses, the barge grounded at the mouth of the Hood River, where it meets the Columbia. The area is prone to large silt deposits that cascade down the Hood River as snow pack melts.
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