Bonneville Dam Repairs Halt Barge Traffic On Columbia River

Sep 10, 2019

The lock system at the Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River is closed for repairs – meaning barges hauling grain from Idaho and the Inland Northwest are in a holding pattern for an indefinite amount of time.

About $2 billion worth of cargo passes through the dam each year.

The holdup is due to a crack in the concrete of the lock at Bonneville Dam as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers rushes to repair the damage.

“I don’t think that the average producer will really see much impact right now,” said Ken Blakeman, the general manager a grain co-op called CHS Primeland in Lewiston.

“The demand is still there and supply now has to come from rail shippers,” Blakeman said.

But what if repairs at the dam drag on? That’s when problems will start.

More than half of American wheat exports travel along the Snake and Columbia rivers through that dam and barges trying to get to the Pacific Ocean are stuck.

Scott Zuger, the manager of the Lewis-Clark Terminal where barges are loaded with wheat, calls it a “worst-case scenario situation.”

After his team finishes loading the two barges docked there Tuesday morning, only two ships will be available during this peak shipping season.

It’s unclear how long repairs will take.

Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.

Copyright 2019 Boise State Public Radio