Columbia River Commerce to Be Halted for 5 Weeks for Annual Outage

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Aerial imagery taken March 15 offers a view from above The Dalles Dam navigation lock, where technicians found cracking in the downstream miter gate during inspections. (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers photo)

Commerce moving up and down the Columbia River, which is a $23 billion industry, will be at a standstill for up to five weeks beginning Feb. 13.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) closes its navigation locks on the Columbia and Snake river dams on an annual basis for maintenance and repairs; however, this year the Corps is extending the closure an extra three weeks – in part – to repair the downstream miter gate at The Dalles.

Engineers will also perform annual maintenance on the navigation locks at Bonneville Dam (ending March 12) and John Day Dam (ending March 5) during the outage.

Technicians found damage at The Dalles navigation lock during last year’s planned closure, forcing an emergency extended outage. Engineers will perform repairs during the five-week closure, which will end March 19.

“These series of locks on the Lower Columbia are a vital piece of transportation infrastructure – the highway that moves our regions exports,” said Kym Anderson, Portland District operations division chief. “Keeping the locks maintained during scheduled outages ensures that these systems stay open on a reliable schedule. We actively communicate any changes in our operating status to all river users to minimize impacts to navigation in this system.”

Portland District locks on the Columbia River pass 10 million of the 50.5 million tons of commerce shipped annually in the nation. Navigation is Portland District’s oldest mission, dating back to 1871.

The Columbia River is the number one U.S. export gateway for wheat and barley, the number two U.S. export gateway for corn and soy, and the number one U.S. export gateway for West Coast mineral bulk. The Columbia River system is also a national leader for wood exports and auto imports and exports. As far as tourism dollars go, approximately 15,000 passengers a year go through on cruise ships, which accounts for $15 to 20 million in revenue for local economies.

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