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Columbia River traffic halted for dam repair

Ed Metz/Hemera/Thinkstock grain barges
Navigation lock expected to reopen Sept. 30 as crews work around the clock.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has closed the Bonneville Lock to all river traffic due to an issue with the downstream lock gate. Lock operators recently observed issues when closing the gate and, after inspection, determined that continuing operation posed the possibility of damage to other lock components.

The Corps' Portland District in Oregon is actively working to determine the cause and to restore lock operation as quickly and safely as possible. The Corps said the navigation lock is expected to reopen on Sept. 30.

“We understand that this lock closure is significant. The Corps is working around the clock to restore Columbia River traffic as soon as possible,” it said.

The U.S. Coast Guard in the region reported that 14 commercial vessels have been affected by the lock closure.

"We appreciate the close coordination with Portland Army Corps of Engineers staff as we work together to ensure the safe reopening of the lock and waterway, given the area's importance to transportation and commerce," said Capt. Alan Moore, the commanding officer at Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit Portland.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said this portion of the river, which is fewer than 40 miles from Portland, is critical to wheat exporters seeking access to multiple grain elevators located downriver. In fact, the Pacific Northwest Waterways Assn. reported that 53% of U.S. wheat exports were transported on the Columbia River in 2017.

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