Jan. 15–Nearly 20 miles of the Ohio River remain closed to commercial traffic Monday after dozens of barges broke away from fleeting areas near Pittsburgh, while at least two of those barges are still unaccounted for.
A “unified command” consisting of the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and private companies have banded together to try to locate the missing barges Monday.
According to a news release, 27 barges broke away from the Jack’s Run fleeting area at mile marker 4 on the Ohio River on Saturday after ice and high water inundated the area. As of Monday, 25 of those barges had been accounted for, though two were still missing.
In response, the agencies have closed all commercial traffic on the Ohio River from mile marker 2 to mile marker 20 “due to risk of channel obstructions.” That means the river is closed from two miles outside of Pittsburgh, to somewhere between the Dashields Locks and Dam in Edgeworth and the Montgomery Locks and Dam in Industry.
The Dashields Locks and Dam is listed as being at mile marker 13, while the Montgomery Locks and Dam is listed at mile marker 31.
In addition to the two missing barges, the Army Corps of Engineers said five barges were reported to have gone over the Emsworth Locks and Dam. Despite that, there are no reports of significant damage and “no environmental concerns from pollution” at those locks and dam.
According to the news release, the two federal agencies are working together to resolve the situation.
“The Coast Guard is working in tandem with our federal and industry stakeholders to account for all barges involved in both incidents and to facilitate the reopening of the waterways and the resumption of commerce,” Leon McClain, Jr., the captain of the port of Pittsburgh, said.
The breakaway barges weren’t restricted to the Pittsburgh area, however. Another 45 barges were reported to have broken away from fleeting areas on the Ohio River near Moundsville, W.Va., over the weekend.
As of Monday afternoon, 38 of those 45 barges were recovered and secured. The river is also closed to commercial activity from mile marker 93 to mile marker 110 in the area.