October 13, 2016

Two runaway barges still high and dry in Avon



The two barges that broke loose from near the Bonner Bridge construction site during Hurricane Matthew's assault with high winds and storm surge on the Outer Banks on Sunday morning are still grounded in Avon.

The contractor on the bridge replacement project, PCL Civil Constructors, is working with the N.C. Department of Transportation and other regulatory agencies, including North Carolina's CAMA, the National Park Service, and the U.S. Coast Guard to come up with a plan to remove the barges, which, on Wednesday morning, were still where they had been pushed by the storm surge.

The contractor had a storm plan that was coordinated with regulatory agencies and the U.S. Coast Guard. Nicole Meister, a spokeswoman for NCDOT said both barges that came loose were moored at a planned location in the Pamlico Sound about 8 miles southwest of  the Bonner Bridge construction site.

Meister described both barges as "tool" barges -- as in they carry tools.  One of the two carried the impact hammer and water jet used to install individual pilings.

The U.S. Coast Guard reports that personnel at Coast Guard Sector Field Office (SFO) Cape Hatteras received a call from the Dare County Emergency Operations Center at about 1:50 p.m. Sunday, during the storm, stating one barge went adrift in Pamlico Sound and was aground in the vicinity of Weakfish Drive in Avon, in close proximity to waterfront properties.

Island Free Press photographer Don Bowers found that barge up against the bulkhead of one of the waterfront properties and still apparently drifting.

That barge contains approximately 300 gallons of diesel fuel and 100 gallons of hydraulic oil.

According to the Coast Guard, local authorities evacuated people from homes in the vicinity of the grounded barge at approximately 2:15 p.m. No injuries were reported.

The Coast Guard also reported that contractor PCL sent an equipment manager, along with personnel from SFO Cape Hatteras, who arrived on scene around 3:30 p.m. Sunday to investigate.

PCL personnel determined later Sunday that a second 140-foot barge had broken free of its mooring at the mooring site southeast of the Bonner Bridge and was also adrift in Pamlico Sound.

An aircraft crew with Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla 10 conducted overflight patrols and located the second barge at about 11 a.m. Monday, grounded approximately 7 miles south of the first barge -- between Canadian Hole and Askins Creek in south Avon.

The second barge contains approximately 200 gallons of diesel fuel and 300 gallons of hydraulic oil.

There have been no reports of pollution from either barge.

The  barges are stable and not likely to move given the current water and weather conditions, Pablo Hernandez,  the resident engineer for the NCDOT and  the project manager for Bonner replacement project, said in an email on Tuesday evening. "All the equipment on the barges is accounted for, secure, and stable."  

Hernandez said that NCDOT,  CAMA, NPS, and PCL had a chance to review the barges Tuesday and discuss general recovery plan and options. 

 "We will continue to monitor the grounded barges as the responsible party plans salvage efforts," said Capt. Patricia Hill, commander of Coast Guard Sector North Carolina in Wilmington. "We will ensure the responsible party conducts a timely and safe salvage in order to mitigate the potential threats to the environmentally sensitive Pamlico Sound."


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