1 of 2 runaway barges pulled from Potomac to shore

May 12, 2022 GMT

WILLIAMSPORT, Md. (AP) — One of two construction barges that floated down the Potomac River amid flooding over the weekend was pulled to shore Thursday, according to a National Park Service official.

The river slowed enough for a tug boat and two other boats to safely retrieve the barge held by the currents below a dam, Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park spokesperson Christiana Hanson said. The barge was taken first to the shore on the Maryland side of the river, where a crew secured a generator still on the deck, and then to a spot on the West Virginia side, where it awaits the arrival of equipment to disassemble it, she said.

A larger barge is still in place in the remnants of another dam, where it is being monitored around the clock, Hanson said. The contractor is developing a plan to recover equipment that fell off the smaller barge and coordinating with the Maryland Department of the Environment for potential spill response, she said.

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The larger barge, which was carrying an excavator and other equipment, broke free from its moorings Saturday night, but didn’t travel far at first, she said. When floodwaters rose further the next day, a second barge broke free and both barges began to travel downstream.

The barges traveled miles (kilometers) along the river before they were stopped, Hanson said. One barge became stuck less than 4 miles (6.4 kilometers) away, but the other traveled more than 25 miles (40 kilometers) before it got stuck, she said.

The barges were part of a project to rehabilitate a stone retaining wall and stabilize the towpath along a section of the historic canal near McMahons Mill in the Williamsport area, which often undergoes flooding that makes the area impassable, Hanson said.