November 30, 2022

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Breakaway barges could pose bridge threat, NPS says

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Contractors are working to recover a barge that is a threat to break free and continue downriver toward bridges and towns.

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. — One of two barges torn from a worksite along the Potomac River during weekend flooding remains a threat to float free, according to the National Park Service. Crews are standing by to prevent the barge from continuing downstream toward a highway bridge and other structures at Shepherdstown, West Virginia the Park Service said in a written statement Tuesday. 

The barge is currently floating at the base of Dam #4 upstream from Shepherdstown. It is stuck in a hydraulic current that is keeping it pinned against the dam, NPS spokesperson Christina Hanson said.

Hanson reported that contractors expect that the barge will float free as the level of the flooded river continues to drop and the strength of the current at Dam #4 weakens. Heavy equipment and other items that were on the barge have been lost overboard and rest on the bottom of the river, Hanson said. Divers may be needed to recover the equipment and inspect the dam, she added.

The barge at Dam #4 is one of two barges that were torn free by floodwaters Saturday night and carried over the dam by the raging current. The barges were supporting restoration construction of historic stone walls along the river and C&O Canal at the historic McMahon’s Mill in Washington County, Maryland. 

RELATED: Barges break loose at C&O Canal worksite, float in Potomac River

Both barges survived after they floated over Dam #4, an 800-foot-long structure that stands 20-feet high when the river is not flooded.  

A second larger barge continued downstream during the flood and has come to rest on rocks at the historic ruins of Dam #3, just upstream of Harpers Ferry. That barge, which narrowly missed a collision with the bridge at Shepherdstown on Sunday, is now jammed in the river at Dam #3 and is expected to stay stable until it can be salvaged, according to the National Park Service.

The operation to recover the barge at Harpers Ferry is expected to take weeks or longer, the Park Service reports.

Heavy equipment, including a tracked excavator, remains on the deck of the stranded barge there.

RELATED: Rainy Saturday in DMV area brings downed trees and water rescue

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2022-05-10 23:47:45

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