Agency completes work on locks at eight dams on Columbia and Snake

Lewiston Morning Tribune

April 12–A cruise boat is expected to arrive in Clarkston in the coming week, now that work has been completed on locks at the eight dams between Portland and the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley.

The vessel is among those operated by five companies that each year take thousands of passengers on a journey from western Oregon to southeastern Washington.

Little Goose Dam locks opened at about 10 p.m. Monday, after going

offline with those of the other seven dams on Dec. 12. Repairs and upgrades were completed that are intended to extend the life of the transportation route along the Snake and Columbia rivers.

Not everything went as expected, and the work took about three week longer than planned.

“Little Goose Dam’s navigation lock could not be returned to service by its original … target (date) because of on-site work complications, which prompted the (Army Corps of Engineers) to award a new contract March 10 for the completion of the remaining critical repairs on the downstream navigation lock gate,” according to a corps news release.

Little Goose is on the Snake River and is the second dam downstream from Lewiston.

Unforeseen issues also emerged at Ice Harbor near the Tri-Cities, where popping noises occur when the gate hoist machinery of the towers is in operation. The corps investigated and found it is not a safety concern, but officials will continue to monitor the issue.

The work at all eight dams previously was estimated to cost about $25 million. The actual price tag hasn’t been calculated, and it’s not known when that will be available because it will involve negotiations between the corps and the contractors who did the work, said Gina Baltrusch, corps spokeswoman.

“It’s going to take them a while to settle all this stuff out,” she said.

The corps closes the locks for about two weeks every year to do maintenance in March. The hope is that doing the more involved projects at eight dams at once will limit the time the system is offline.

The waterway plays an important role in the economy of north central Idaho and southeastern Washington. It is the primary route wheat farmers use to get their crops to Portland, where they are transferred to oceangoing ships. The grain can be shipped by rail or truck, but those options are significantly more expensive.

In the past, even more cargo has been barged on the route, including paperboard manufactured at Clearwater Paper and dried lentils. That business ceased two years ago when the ocean-going container carriers that transported those products stopped calling at the Port of Portland because of issues with how quickly ships were loaded.

Williams may be contacted at ewilliam@lmtribune.com or (208) 848-2261.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Waterways Council, Inc.