Lock opening again delayed

Weather problems have led to a later opening date for the lock at Lower Monumental Dam.

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KAHLOTUS -- Weather has caused another delay in the opening of the navigation lock at Lower Monumental Dam, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has announced.

The lock, which was supposed to open today, is now scheduled to go back in operation Saturday at 5 p.m. The facility has been closed since Dec. 10 to allow replacement of the downstream lock gate as well as other repairs and maintenance.

High winds and rain at Lower Monumental Dam prevented the precision work needed to ensure the new gate's seals will align properly with the existing lock structure. The gate cannot be placed under a cover to keep it dry due to its large size and the need to move the structure frequently during painting and welding to access the bare-metal end plates.

Barring further problems, Lower Monumental's return to service will reopen the entire Columbia-Snake River navigation system. Six of the eight navigation locks in the Columbia-Snake River system are now back in service. The next locks scheduled to return to service will be at The Dalles Dam and at Bonneville Dam.

At this time engineers anticipate the navigation lock will open as planned Wednesday at 11:59 p.m.. However if the additional time is required, work would delay the opening until the same time Friday.

The need to replace lock gates at three dams in the system as well as perform maintenance and repairs at other locations led to an unprecedented shutdown of the entire river system that began late last year.

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

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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