The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently reopened the navigation lock at Bonneville Dam in Oregon to Columbia River traffic, nearly one month after being closed for repairs.
“We know how important the Columbia River is to our river users and appreciate their patience while we worked to restore the Bonneville lock back to service,” deputy district engineer Kevin Brice said. “It’s a testament to Portland District’s hardworking professionals and experts that we were able to return the lock to service ahead of schedule.”
The lock was closed to river traffic Sept. 5 after lock operators detected problems operating the downstream gate. After draining and inspecting the lock, engineers discovered that the downstream concrete sill, a structure against which lock gates create a watertight seal, was damaged and needed replacement. The district team and experts removed the existing concrete sill and set a new replacement sill.
To construct the new sill, 22 concrete trucks placed 176 cubic yards of concrete.
Around-the-clock construction and favorable weather conditions allowed for an accelerated opening, the Corps reported.
“We want to thank the Corps of Engineers for the extraordinary effort they put into returning the Bonneville navigation lock to service,” said Kristin Meira, executive director of the Pacific Northwest Waterways Assn. “The Columbia and Snake rivers are two of the Pacific Northwest’s major water ‘highways,’ and we’re happy to see the barges, cruise ships and other vessels moving again."
She continued, “These federal waterways are critical to jobs and trade in our region and deliver real value to the nation."
The navigation lock, completed in 1993, extends 676 ft. long and is 85 ft. wide. On an average day, the lock operates about 8-12 times to allow passage of vessels of all sizes.
Of the 50.5 million tons of commerce shipped annually in the nation, 10 million tons pass through Portland District locks on the Columbia River. Navigation is the Portland District’s oldest mission, dating back to 1871.
The Columbia River is the number-one U.S. export gateway for wheat, barley and West Coast mineral bulk and the number-two U.S. export gateway for corn and soy. 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 $15-20 million in revenue for local economies.