Barge strikes lock structure at Racine Locks and Dam, with 48-MW hydro plant

A riverboat towing eight barges loaded with coal struck the entrance to the lock at the Racine Locks and Dam, on the Ohio River between Ohio and West Virginia, last Saturday.

According to news sources, the riverboat ran into the “bull nose” portion of the lock, which is the tip of the concrete barrier separating the locks from the dam portion of the structure. Four barges loaded with coal broke apart. Two were recovered immediately but a third slipped under a gate that had been raised due to high water, and that barge sank downriver. The fourth barge was missing and workers were trying to determine its location.

River traffic was stopped until late Sunday so authorities could assess the damage and look for the missing barge. However, it is not clear if the missing barge was indeed located.

The Ohio River was above flood stage at the time of the accident, and swift currents pose a hazard to navigation by making it difficult to control the direction of the tow.

The locks and dam are owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers through its Huntington District. The dam has a top length of 1,173 feet. It features eight tainter gates. The Corps is working to determine if the missing barge caused any damage to the locks and dam structure.

American Electric Power Company owns and operates a hydroelectric generating plant on the Ohio abutment of Racine Dam. The 48-MW facility operates 24 hours a day as run-of-river conditions permit. The facility began operating in 1983.

The riverboat was owned and operated by AEP, and the accident investigation is focusing on that company, according to The Daily Sentinel.

Neither the Corps nor AEP had issued a press release by the time this article was published.

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