Work Could Begin Soon On The Removal Of A Barge Stuck On The Potomac River

Removal of a small barge on the Potomac River (Photo from National Park Service)

The National Park Service says a contractor has developed a plan.

Williamsport, Md. (KM) – Work is expected to begin in a few days on removing a large barge which got stuck last month at Dam Number Three on the Potomac River upstream from Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.. Christiana Hanson, Chief of Interpretation, Education and Volunteers for the C&O National Historical Park, says a contractor has worked out a plan for removing the barge, a process which is expected to take four weeks weather permitting.

“If it rains, or if we have any high water event, and it’s not safe to be out there, so they would have to pause,” says Hanson. “But that barge is anchored so it’s not a problem to pause the work.”

This barge, which is 120 feet by 40 feet, and a much smaller vessel, 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 some heavy rains the weekend of May 7-8, and began floating down the Potomac River. The smaller barge was caught on the hydraulic rollers just below Dam Number Four near Shepardstown. It was pulled away by a tugboat and taken to the West Virginia side of the River.

But the larger barge still remains in place. Hanson says the contractor has set up a staging area, and equipment has been brought in to remove this vessel. “They brought in a crane that’s going to help with puling equipment up from the river area on to shore,” she says. “They brought in some other equipment like a flatbed trailer.”

Much of the work will be done in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. As a result, some trails will be closed. “It’s the Potomac Street Extension which is by the Armory Canal Trail that will be closed to the public at the trail’s south end. That end is gated so folks should be able to see it very clearly,” says Hanson.

She also says access to Potomac Street off of Bakerton Road will be closed to the public. “And there are  signs up and the constrictor actually has someone monitoring the area. So  that folks come by, there will be somebody to answer questions,” says Hanson.

Boating is allowed in that stretch of the Potomac River while work on removing the barge is underway. “We’re asking folks to be very cautious around them, and not to approach the barge, or get on the barge as this work is occurring,.” Hanson says.

She says boaters should say close to the Maryland side of the river if they’re traveling in this part of the Potomac.

When the smaller barge was removed from the river last month, Hanson says some equipment from the vessel fell into the water. Hanson says it will not be left there. “There’s still equipment like an excavator and some hand tools that fell off the deck of that barge  that is now visible. The water levels have dropped so folks can see it,”; she says. “The contractor is working on a plan to recover that equipment.”

By Kevin McManus