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Stretch of Monongahela River Closing for Sunken Barge Removal

January 9, 1990

PITTSBURGH (AP) _ The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Monday prepared to close a stretch of the Monongahela River for about 10 days to free a sunken barge, one of at least 61 that broke from their moorings New Year’s Day.

The corps has to drain 17 feet of water from the river upstream from Pittsburgh before orkers try to free a barge wedged under a floodgate at the Maxwell Locks and Dam near Brownsville, said John Reed, corps spokesman.

″It’s going to look more like a creek than a river. A good size creek,″ Reed said of the stretch to be drained.

The corps planned to close a 23.8-mile stretch of the river early Tuesday.

The closing means about 35,000 tons of coal and gravel a day will be delayed or find other routes, said Nancy Mullen, a corps spokeswoman.

The Coast Guard on Monday continued its investigation into why the barges broke free. Heavy rain and melting snow had raised the level of the river and its tributaries and sent large chunks of ice rushing downriver.

One barge leaked as much as 10,000 gallons of gasoline but state officials said the environmental damage was slight.

A total of 33 barges sank or were partially submerged.

The river was closed after the barges broke loose, and was reopened last Thursday. The corps expects to have the river open for navigation by Jan. 19.

Elsewhere on Monday, the Arthur Kill shipping channel between Staten Island in New York and New Jersey reopened to traffic as Exxon continued to sop up oil in marshes and streams fouled by its spill of heating oil last week.

An estimated 200,000 to 500,000 gallons of home heating oil leaked into the channel on Jan. 2. The oil came from a ruptured pipeline that runs between the Bayway refinery in Linden and a distribution terminal in Bayonne.

Rear Admiral Richard Rybacki, commander of the Coast Guard’s first district, said the Coast Guard hasn’t yet determined the exact amount of spilled fuel. He said 82,000 gallons had been recovered by Monday and another 70 to 80 percent of the oil is believed to have evaporated within the first 100 hours of the spill.

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