Crews work to bring three sunken barges back to surface

Published 12:28 am Tuesday, October 2, 2007

VIDALIA — The large barge with a crane hanging out just south of the Mississippi River Bridge is part of a salvage project to resurrect three sunken barges from their watery resting places.

The barges sank in late January after they struck the bridge’s pilings during high water.

The first step salvage crews will have to take is to remove the remaining cargo from the barges, surveyor Peter Diaz said.

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Diaz is with Budwine and Associates, one of the firms working on the salvage project.

The cargo the barges were carrying was small pieces of granite, Diaz said.

“It’s rock like you would find in your driveway, little pieces chopped to the size of an inch, maybe an inch-and-a-half,” he said.

Once the rock is removed, recovery crews will try to pump water out of the barges’ tanks and lift them with a large A-frame crane on the salvage barge, Diaz said.

Divers will cut holes in the barges, pass chains through them and patch any holes as they survey the barges to see what kind of damage has been done to them, Diaz said.

One of the barges will likely come up in two pieces, he said.

The crew will probably move to a submerged barge directly under the bridge today, Diaz said.

“That one will likely be the easiest to raise,” he said.

Even though another salvage barge is slated to join in the recovery effort in the near future, the process will still be a slow one, Diaz said.

“Without any problems, this project will take about two months,” he said.