Export gateway getting ready to open - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Export gateway getting ready to open

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NEAR KAHLOTUS, Wash.—The world's largest wheat export has been closed since December while repairs have been made on the Dalles, Lower Monumental and John Day Dams.

Originally work was set to wrap up by March 18th.  A U.S. Army Corps of Engineers representative says now they are looking at completion by the 21st and opening the dams to exports on March 23rd.

Gina Baltrusch, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Spokesman, says replacing the lock gate at the Lower Monumental Dam has taken a little longer than expected, but they do want to make sure everything is done in order.  Currently, they are wrapping up the seals on the gate that has already been installed.

"If you can envision the lock gate sitting at the bottom of the lock without any water in it, it actually tilts to the inside of the lock, and then when the lock fills the water pressure pushes it up and seals around the existing structure of the lock, so it forms a water tight seal," says Gina Baltrusch, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Spokesman.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers expect this to be the last big repair for at least another five years.  The only maintenance outages will be the usual two weeks out of every year.

A representative with the Pacific Northwest Waterways Association says when it comes to exports everything has run smoothly.  Wheat growers had a year and a half to prepare for the shut down; therefore, they did not see any unplanned issues.