EMSWORTH (KDKA) — Crews have started to remove the breakaway barges that got lodged against the Emsworth Locks and Dam during last weekend’s flooding.
The area near the dam was declared a safety zone on Jan. 15 after almost 30 barges broke away from Jack’s Run Fleeting on Jan. 13 due to flooding and ice jams. Eighteen barges ended up at the dam. Seven of those were sunken barges.
On Sunday, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers started removing the breakaway barges with the assistance of the U.S. Coast Guard, the navigation industry, Monongalia County Homeland Security Emergency Management, and the Morgantown police and fire departments.
Crews used a drone from Monongalia County to get a better view of icepacks on the rivers, and the Morgantown police and fire departments provided equipment that allowed them to locate seven barges that were submerged at Emsworth.
The gates at the dam are operational, but navigation has not yet resumed.
“Until that safety zone is lifted, there will be no commerce moving up and down the rivers, but our facility right now is capable of moving commerce,” Major Cornelius Batts, deputy commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Pittsburgh District, said.
“We’re working with a sense of urgency, although with that being said, safety is paramount, so we’re looking to hopefully continue to make progress,” Commander Leon McClain with the U.S. Coast Guard said.
Crews do not currently have an estimated timeline of when all the barges will be removed.
“You can’t put a timetable to an operation as large as this,” McClain said.
At least two barges were removed Sunday. Officials say they expect to continue removing barges Monday.