River locks scheduled to reopen

Dams on the Snake and Columbia rivers have been closed to shipping for months.

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WALLA WALLA - A massive repair job will come to completion this month as the Columbia-Snake River navigation system goes back into operation.

After months of repair and replacement work, navigation locks on the four Lower Snake River Dams will be the first to reopen. The locks at Ice Harbor, Lower Monumental, Little Goose and Lower Granite dams will go back into service March 15 at 5 p.m.. On the Columbia River, the lock at McNary Dam will reopen March 17 at 5 p.m.

The next two dams, John Day Dam near Rufus, Ore., and Bonneville Dam near the Cascade Locks, Ore., will reopen at midnight March 19. The final reopening will be March 24 when The Dalles Dam will go back into service.

Operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the river system has been closed periodically in previous years to allow maintenance. But the need to replace lock gates at three dams along with work at other locations led to a unprecedented shutdown of the network that started late last year and stretched through this month.

Replacement of the 700-ton downstream lock gate at Lower Monumental Dam on the Snake River near Kahlotus was one of the larger projects. The lock was the first to shut down, closing Dec. 10, to allow workers to remove the 41-year-old gate and install a new one that had been fabricated in Vancouver, Wash., and floated upriver.

Navigation lock gates at the John Day Dam and The Dalles Dam on the Columbia River were also replaced during the shutdown.

In a release, Corps officials said that although the locks had been scheduled to reopen March 13, the date was changed to synchronize with the return to service of John Day and The Dalles locks and allow time to ensure all work met quality control standards.

The four Lower Snake River dams are managed by the Corps' Walla Walla District Office in Walla Walla while the Columbia River dams are operated by the Portland District Office in Portland.

Andy Porter can be reached at andyporter@wwub.com or 526-8318. Check out his blog at blogs.ublabs.org/randomthoughts.

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