At about 2 a.m. on Tuesday, a vessel towing 11 barges “made contact with a stationary structure” at the entrance of the Portland Canal on the Ohio River near Louisville, Ky. As a result of the impact, 10 of the 11 barges broke loose, and three of them lodged against the lower McAlpine Dam, according to the USDA’s Grain Transportation Report.

The barges were pushed by the 3,000-hp, twin-screw, 102' towboat Queen City.

A narrow, humanmade waterway, the Portland Canal connects the Ohio River to the McAlpine Locks and Dam and allows vessels to pass around the Ohio River’s falls.

Three barges are pinned against the lower dam site, one barge is pinned against the Louisville and Indiana bridge pier and all other barges were recovered by vessels in the area. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is working closely with the U.S. Coast Guard, navigation industry and marine surveyors to start the recovery efforts of the remaining barges. The locks remained closed until the barges on the dam were stabilized.

That process took about 17 hours, but the chambers have since reopened under restrictions for southbound traffic to use a helper boat. Southbound traffic reopened yesterday afternoon but is currently restricted to daylight hours only. There are no restrictions for vessels navigating northbound.

This morning, one barge containing more than 2,000 tons of corn has safely been removed from the lower McAlpine Dam structure along the Ohio River; two barges remain settled. One of the barges involved in the accident carried 1,400 tons of methanol, and several others contained corn and soybeans.

There have been no reports of injuries or pollution in the water. More than 80 air quality samples have been taken so far and all tests to date show zero evidence of any hazards that would pose a health risk, though teams are continuously monitoring the situation. That monitoring will remain firmly in place until the situation is fully resolved. The U.S. Coast Guard is investigating the incident.

The Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet will continue sampling the Ohio River downstream from the dam and will make those results public as soon as available.

According to environmental consulting firm CTEH’s independent toxicology experts, methanol is a water soluble, colorless liquid. Methanol evaporates when exposed to air, quickly dissolves in water and is readily biodegradable. However, it is potentially harmful if ingested or inhaled in sufficient quantities. Currently, the Methanol contained within the vessel does not pose a risk to the surrounding air or water supply in the greater Louisville area.

There remains no evidence of a tank breach or any leaks, and air and water monitoring resources are in place.

In 2021, nearly 2.8 million tons of grain moved through the McAlpine Locks and Dam.