Salvage of sunken barges on Ohio River underway

Crews were scheduled to begin salvaging the sunken coal barges from the Ohio River on January 9th. Nine barges became pinned against the McAlpine Dam near Louisville, Kentucky after pusher Debbie Graham caused one of the 15 loaded coal barges that she was pushing upstream struck the Clark Memorial Bridge on December 25th. That caused the barges to break free and float away downriver.

The US Army Corps of Engineers and US Coast Guard approved a plan on January 8th to salvage the nine barges. Six barges were recovered following the incident, which caused no injuries.

Paducah-based owner of Debbie Graham, Tennessee Valley Towing, has hired Mississippi-based Big River Salvage and Louisiana-based McKinney Salvage to salvage the barges. They have placed a barge, a motorized vessel and two cranes at the McAlpine Dam.

Crews will first remove the coal from one sunken barge that is closest to the Indiana bank of the Ohio River. The coal will then be loaded onto empty barges. Crews will then start to recover the three barges closest to the Indiana bank. They will pull up the remaining barges after installing anchor points in the bank on the Indiana side of the river, near the Falls of the Ohio State Park. Installation of the anchors was expected to begin before the weekend.

The coal had been mined in western Kentucky and was being taken to LG&E and KU’s Trimble County and Ghent power plants.

The operations of the power plants were not affected because of the lost coal. Officials had not yet detected damage to the Clark Memorial Bridge or McAlpine Locks and Dam on the Ohio River, although one of the sunken barges was blocking a gate from closing at the dam

The USCG was still only allowing vessel traffic on the Ohio River during daylight hours and with an assist vessel.