Final pieces of sunken barge lifted from bay
On Dec. 9, a 265-foot crane was used to raise the 350-ton sunken barge that plummeted to the depths of the Narragansett Bay below the Newport-Pell Bridge following an October nor’easter. The smaller crane that could be seen this week on the bay was brought in to finish the cleanup.
Three items – a transformer, a silo and a hopper – were left behind on the bottom of the bay following the operation that raised the barge in early December. According to David Darlington, the chairman of the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority board of directors, the contract with the first company – DonJon Marine – was limited to items that were “within footprints of the barge.” Because some items fell off during the collapse and scattered, the three leftover items weren’t DonJon’s responsibility.
While waiting for the crane to arrive, divers marked off where each of the items were located on the seafloor to make retrieval easier. The crane arrived just after midnight on Tuesday morning. Later that day the transformer was lifted. By Wednesday all three pieces had been removed from the bay, effectively ending the cleanup operation.
According to Darlington, the U.S. Coast Guard and the state Department of Environmental Management didn’t have any clear requirements to raise the last three pieces since they weren’t considered pollutants or hazardous to the vegetation.
“Technically, [Abhe & Svoboda, the contractor who had a lease on the barge that sunk and was responsible for the cleanup,] could have left it there,” Darlington said. “But we all agreed that we should finish the job. It wasn’t intended to be on the bottom, so let’s get it out. We wanted to leave the bay the way it was before the barge.”
Darlington said that Abhe & Svoboda are still on pace to finish the job before deadline. Before the barge sank, the company had a barge on both sides of the bridge with crews working on each part simultaneously.
“Now, crews are working on one side of the bridge, and when that’s done, they will move the barge and work on the other side of the bridge,” Darlington said. “If they need to bring a barge in for the spring, they can. But right now they’re telling us this method will still meet the time requirements.”