Slooow Progress

Just one foot, that's now the depth of the Ohio River at the upper gauge of the Belleville Locks and Dam, but there's been progress on removing the sunken barges with five of the dam's eight gates now clear.

The good news is that one of the sunken barges has now been completely removed from the locks, but that leaves three to be removed. The Army Corps of Engineers says the weather is partly to blame for the slow process.

'This would be a difficult job under the best conditions," says U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spokesman, Chuck Minsker. "But the weather certainly isn't making things any easier."

In the meantime, greater and greater stretches of Routes 124 and 144 continue to be shut down. Just during the weekend, landslips shut down 124 from Little Hocking to Reedsville. It's all a result of the two floods since September, followed by the receding of the rivers after the barge accident prompted the opening of the locks at Belleville.

The cost of repairs to the slipping highways is expected to go into the millions. In the meantime, the Corps of Engineers is making no predictions as to when things will return to normal.

"Safety is the primary factor," Minsker says. "It's not worth putting anyone in jeopardy just to get it done five minutes faster. We have to trust the salvage crews; we have some of the best in the country working for us, and they're doing everything they can."

Minsker says crews can only work to free the barges during daylight hours because it is too dangerous to be on the river at night.


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