One Barge Pulled Away From Potomac River Dam

The National Park Service says a contractor is developing plans to remove the other barge.

Williamsport, Md. (KM) – There’s some good news to report regarding one of the barges stuck on the Potomac River. Christiana Hanson, Chief of Interpretation, Education and Volunteers at the C&O National Historical Park, says a contractor was able to pull away the smaller barge which was stuck at Dam Number 4 near Shepardstown, WV.

“The water flow lessened to a point where it was safe for them to bring in a tugboat to connect to the dam and pull it {the barge}  safely away from the dam, and secure it along the shoreline,” she says.

Crews towed the barge to the Maryland side of the Potomac River where they were able to remove a generator which was on deck. Then it was moved to the West Virginia side where it’s secured with multiple lines. Hanson says plans are to disassemble and decommission the barge.

She also says some equipment from the smaller barge fell into the water, such as a mini-excavator, gangways, a mortar mixer, hand tools and and sandbags. “We’ve been coordinating with the Maryland Department of the Environment to assess the impact  without going into the water,” she says. “They will not be left there. Those will be recovered and pulled out of the river. We just have to wait for the water to calm down and lower before the contractor can do that.”

Meanwhile, the larger barge remain stuck near Dam Number 3 upriver from Harpers Ferry. She says the contractor is developing a recovery plan and has been monitoring the barge 24-hours a day, seven days a week. “So at this time, the water remains a little bit too wild. And this honestly is going to be not an overnight recovery. This a multi-week effort as we’re waiting for the waters to calm down, and they get even calmer as we get into the summer months. We’re at a good time of the year as the river calms down for recovery to happen,” says Hanson.

She’s also urging canoeists  and kayakers who love to paddle the Potomac to stay away from the barges. “We’re asking for space around these barges. This is a part of the river that people do hop into canoes and kayaks and go into it. If you are in a vessel., we ask not to get close to the barges, not to hop on top of them. It just isn’t safe, and we want to make sure people stay safe throughout this whole process,” says Hanson.

The barges were being used by a contractor to rehabilitate and stabilize a retaining wall along the C&O Canal towpath near McMahon’s  Mill in the Williamsport area. The two came  loose during heavy rains the weekend of May 7-8, and began floating down the river. The smaller barge was caught on the hydraulic rollers just below Dam 4, and the larger one was held in place by Dam 3.

By Kevin McManus