BONNEVILLE DAM — It’s been two weeks since an emergency repair project forced an unplanned closure and drainage of the Bonneville Navigation Lock, and contractors for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are working around the clock to meet a goal of reopening the passage by Sept. 30.
The lock is the only way for large boats to pass the adjacent Bonneville Dam, and the closure has brought river traffic to a standstill. To make matters worse, it’s the middle of the wheat harvest season, when barges make frequent trips down the river carrying millions of tons of grain to the Port of Vancouver and other export terminals.
The Corps’ Portland office hosted a media briefing at the visitors center on Wednesday morning to provide an update on the status of construction.
It was a noisy job site — constant sounds of drills and jackhammers echoed from the floor of the 100-foot-deep lock, which opened in 1993. Crews have been working 24 hours a day, and the priority is to restore river traffic as soon as possible, said Alan Davis, with the Corps’ Portland division.
“Right now, all of our efforts are just focused on making this repair,” he said.