Granite Locks to Close for 3 Monthsby Dan Hansen, Staff Writer
The Spokesman Review, January 27, 2002
Barging will cease Monday for repairs at the Snake River dam
It will be impossible to barge wheat, fuel or other goods on the lower Snake River for three months starting Monday.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will spend that time making major repairs to the locks at Lower Granite Dam in southeastern Washington.
The work will prevent commercial vessels and recreational boaters from reaching ports in Clarkston, Wash., and neighboring Lewiston, Idaho. The corps expects to complete the $1.8 million project by April 29.
"We intend to do the job as safely and quickly as possible," said Bob Hollenbeck, project manager for the corps.
Locks are massive chambers built into dams. The equivalent of elevators, they use water to lift or lower boats so they can navigate the river.
In 1998, during a routine annual inspection, engineers discovered cracks in the locks' two downstream gates, each of which weighs 372 tons.
Temporary repairs have kept the locks operating since then, but the corps has warned that permanent repairs would be needed.
Business interests have said the corps has done a good job coordinating the work to have the least possible impact on the economy. Still, the repairs will be disruptive.
More than 200 commercial vessels typically pass through the Lower Granite locks during February, March and April -- the slowest months of the year. Many are tugs pushing barges of wheat from farms in the Palouse. In addition, 22,000 containers of other goods -- everything from paper products to onions -- were shipped out of Lewiston and Clarkston last year, according to Port of Portland records.
Boats sailing to Lewiston from the Pacific Ocean pass through locks at eight dams, including four on the Columbia River and four on the Snake River.
About 400 miles from the ocean, the Lower Granite locks are the farthest upstream. Lewiston is the West's most inland seaport.
The Lower Granite repairs are expected to increase business at ports in Pasco, Wash., at the confluence of the Snake and Columbia rivers.
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