The second of two
runaway barges from the Bonner Bridge replacement construction area was
officially moved from its temporary and unexpected residence on the
soundside in north Avon this morning and is headed back toward the
Bonner Bridge construction site.
The two barges broke
loose from a mooring located 8 miles southwest of the bridge site, and
floated roughly 20 miles south down the Pamlico Sound until they ran
aground in Avon during Hurricane Matthew.
One barge, which was
moved last Friday, Oct. 21, was located between south Avon and Canadian
Hole. The operation to move the barge took roughly four to six hours
and utilized the help of a company that specializes in marine salvage,
Center Lift, which is based in Louisiana.
The moving of the
second barge was postponed on Saturday and Sunday because of high winds
that were forecast for the area, according to Pablo Hernandez, the
resident engineer for the North Carolina Department of Transportation
and the project manager for the Bonner replacement project.
After the crew
finished removing the barge Friday from south Avon, the salvage
equipment for the endeavor was taken to the Avon Harbor to ride out the
winds that were expected over the weekend. The equipment was moved on
Monday morning to the second barge site to begin work.
the equipment was docked at the Avon Harbor over the weekend,
equipment, including batteries, fire extinguishers, and radios were
stolen from some of the support vessels. The Dare County Sheriff’s
Office responded to the theft report on Monday morning, soon after it
was discovered. “The Sheriff’s Office is here investigating, and taking
fingerprints off of one of the vessels,” Hernandez said on Monday.
“It’s disappointing to come in on Monday morning, and find that [some
of the equipment] is gone.”
Despite the theft
setback, all equipment and crew members were in place to get the second
barge moving and back to its rightful placement next to the Bonner
Bridge on Monday.
equipment and weather dependent, but hopefully we just have good luck
being able to put the air bags underneath the barge,” said Hernandez on
The process to move
the vessels entailed positioning roller bags, or air bags, under the
barge, which in turn allows an offshore towing winch to advance the
barge off the shore. Prior to being moved, support vessels that consist
of shallow draft work boats – or oversized, flat-bottom john boats with
anywhere from 300 to 400 horsepower outboard motors -- charted several
paths in order to be able to move the larger tug, or larger push boat.
In addition, these
shallow draft support vessels also scouted out the routes to take out
the barges to deep water so they can rendezvous with increasingly
larger tugs, and cruise all the way to the Bonner Bridge without being
stuck in shallow sound waters.
A number of personnel
were at one or both sites from multiple organizations and companies,
including crew members from the specialty contractor Center Lift,
additional crew members from the contracted support vessels, employees
of PCL Civil Contractors -- the main contracting company on the bridge
replacement which had rented the barges -- observers from the U.S.
Coast Guard, NCDOT personnel, and an observer with the National Park
The crews spent
Monday positioning the roller bags so that the barge could be safely
moved from its landlocked position without incident and finished the
positioning on Tuesday morning. By Tuesday afternoon, the barge had
started its slow progress away from the shoreline and out into open
waters, but hit a minor roadblock when it hit a shallow area of the
The crews worked
Tuesday afternoon to get the barge moving again, and it was free and
ready to go by Tuesday evening. By Wednesday morning, the barge was on
its way to deeper waters, en route back to its place beside the Bonner
Hernandez says it’s
too early to tell whether the impromptu relocation of the barges will
slow down the project in the long term.
“We still have two
years to go on this project, so that means there’s a lot of time left,”
he says. “Granted, because of the equipment that was on the barges,
there were some operations we could not perform right after the storm
passed, but there was other work available to the contractors.”
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