February 26, 2019
By Elaine Williams
Water transportation has been temporarily halted between Lewiston and Portland, Ore., forcing shippers to shuffle their schedules.
The navigation lock at Ice Harbor Dam closed Saturday when mechanical alignment issues surfaced on its downstream gate hoist machinery, according to a news release from the Walla Walla District of the Army Corps of Engineers.
Ice Harbor is one of eight dams on the Snake and Columbia rivers between Lewiston and Portland.
The problem was discovered when crews had difficulty opening the gate while they were preparing for the arrival of a vessel. On Monday, the corps sent personnel to the site to evaluate options.
“They have to come up with a path forward,” corps spokeswoman Gina Baltrusch said.
No date has been set for the lock to reopen. The closure stranded one vessel from Tidewater Barge Lines behind Ice Harbor Dam near the Tri-Cities. A Shaver Transportation grain barge was just below Ice Harbor Dam and couldn’t reach Almota in Whitman County, where it was supposed to be loaded.
Operators of the Lewis-Clark Terminal in Lewiston are waiting for more information before deciding what to do. The terminal, which belongs to CHS Primeland, Pacific Northwest Farmers Co-op and Uniontown Co-op, was supposed to load grain barges Monday through Wednesday this week, general manager Scott Zuger said.
“The system is moving, and when it comes to a sudden stop, it’s just like any other roadblock,” Zuger said. “You have to wait for it to be cleared.”
One sawdust shipment bound for a Clearwater Paper facility at the Port of Lewiston was delivered to an alternate location, company spokeswoman Shannon Myers said. The raw materials unloaded at the site feed Clearwater Paper’s Lewiston plant.
The overnight passenger cruise boats that call on Clarkston and other towns along the Snake and Columbia rivers weren’t affected. They ran until early November last year and are scheduled to resume at the end of March.
The temporary outage at Ice Harbor precedes a previously planned annual maintenance at all eight dams. That work starts Saturday and is expected close river transportation between Lewiston and Portland until March 24.