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Recovery operations underway for barges at Webbers Falls dam

Posted at 5:23 PM, Aug 27, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-28 08:45:07-04

WEBBERS FALLS, Okla. — WEBBERS FALLS, Okla. -- Members of the Tulsa District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers confirm one of the barges was successfully removed from the Webbers Falls dam.

"We've never seen anything like this so it's been really interesting," said Mary Shry, Webbers Falls resident.

Mary Shry remembers watching the two loose barges float toward the Webbers Falls dam, about a mile from her home. Now three months later, she's watching salvage operations.

"We’ve never ever seen anything like this and just having the barges go up and down the river is different for us from where we came from they didn’t have such a thing, so this has been interesting," said Shry.

The barges are in front of four gates, out of those they can only close one.

"We’ve been down long enough, it’s not only an impact to our navigation industry, we have hydropower plants we’ve got water permittees up stream," said Rodney Beard, Chief of Navigation for Tulsa District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Army Corps officials say the situation at the dam isn't the only thing impacting the system.

"This has been a year where we’ve seen more rainfall than we’ve probably seen since I’ve been working with the Corps of Engineers, and dealt with the kind of flows that we’ve had to deal with, this is not typical with the navigation system," said Beard.

Based on a study done a few years ago, officials estimate overall daily economic impact to be over $20 million.

"The impact's not only Oklahoma, to Arkansas to Kansas, to all around the surrounding states that uses this navigation system, hydropower, when you start bringing all those into play, you’re talking about big numbers," said Beard.

Officials say when the barges are removed, they'll drop the gates to inspect for any damage while the water is low.

"Once we’re comfortable that everything is structurally sound and we don’t have to make any on the spot repairs, our next goal is get the pool filled up," said Beard.

They hope to fill the pools within a week.

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