One down, one to go.
Work began Tuesday on salvage operations at the east bank of the John C. Stennis Lock & Dam in Columbus, where two run-away barges came to rest after colliding with the dam on Dec. 26.
Salvage crews from River Salvage Co. of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, arrived at the dam about 7:30 a.m. Tuesday. The towboat “James Garrett,” along with two barges equipped with cranes — one with a lifting capacity of up to 300 tons, the other up to 600 tons — arrived and began the work of removing the barges, one of which was half-submerged beneath the other.
The barges belong to Tom Soya Grain Co. They broke from their moorings at Raymond D. Lucas Memorial Port in Clay County following heavy rains the week before Christmas.
Salvage workers quickly removed the non-submerged barge, as curious on-lookers watched the operations behind crime scene tape near the pavilion.
In about an hour, the crew had moved the barge, which was towed north on the river by another towboat.
Spectators arrived to watch the salvage throughout the day, among them Bruce and Diane Naylor, who have been serving as camp hosts at the Lock & Dam since Thanksgiving and witnessed the accident.
“It was the strangest thing,” Bruce Naylor said. “The second barge came right at the first barge, which was already up against the dam where it is now. Then, just before it looked like it was going to crash into side of that barge, the second dug into the bank a little, spun around and came to rest right beside the first barge, almost like someone was parking it there. It began to sink and then it sort of slid underneath the other barge.”
After removing the intact barge, salvage operations began on the more difficult task of raising the partially-submerged barge, removing the barge covers and using the lighter of the two cranes, equipped with a 20-yard grabble, to remove the soybean from the sunken end of the barge.
By 4 p.m. Tuesday, work had been suspended for the day. The towboat and two deck barges moved to the west bank of the river and were expected to resume work today.
Officials from the salvage company did not return calls Tuesday afternoon.
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is email@example.com.
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