Pasco, WA - Every year, up to 150 million bushels are transported on barges down the Columbia River and through locks at dams along the way. To put it in perspective, one bushel of wheat amounts to about 60 pounds. But now, the shipments are being stopped at the Bonneville Dam near Portland.
On Sunday, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers found a crack on one of its locks. A lock is used to raise and lower ships between different levels of water on rivers. The broken lock prevents barges from passing through the dam. But the manager of Tri-Cities Grain said he's not worried about the stopped shipments.
"Our harvest is already 99 percent done so most of us upriver terminals, we're holding the grain so it's not like there's a whole bunch coming at us that we have to keep shipping right now," Damon Filan said.
The Bonneville Dam is one several that the barges have to go through to reach ports along the shores of the Pacific Ocean so it can then be sent to Asia.
In addition to wheat, timber, and other freight from Idaho, Oregon and Washington can't reach their ports.
Right now it is unclear exactly when the crack in the lock will be fixed.
"There's quite a traffic flow of barges going down towards Portland, so that dam is gonna hold things up. We're hoping for maybe just one or two weeks. And the corps is letting the whole maritime industry know what their progress is," Filan said.
We will continue to follow the progress of the repairs as they move along.