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Environment

Snake, Columbia dams to open after long closure

031411AK_dams.jpg
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
The second leaf of the new The Dalles downstream navigation lock gate is lowered into position on March 5.

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The dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers will open for barge traffic soon. Locks were closed for several months during repairs.

Barges carry nearly $2 billion worth of cargo a year, plying the waters from the mouth of the Columbia River clear up into Idaho. So it was a big deal when the system shut down for major repairs. Some of the dams and their locks are more than 60 years old and were corroding.

At The Dalles, John Day and Lower Monumental dams the downstream lock gates had to be replaced. Scott Clemons is a spokesman for the Portland District of the Army Corps of Engineers:

“Although we understand the impact of these outage is having on our navigation stakeholders, at least we are able to contain that impact to one 14 or 15 week period, rather than have to do a series of outages over the next few years to get all of those gates replaced.”

Companies that rely on the Columbia and Snake rivers have been pushing cargo by truck and rail during the outage. All of the closed dams should be back in business by the end of March.