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 The $23 billion Columbia River commerce industry will come to a standstill for annual dam maintenance, repairs

COURTESY PHOTO: U.S. ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS - The Columbia River will close to all river traffic for five weeks for dam maintenance.Portlanders won't see any freight barges or cruises coming and going along the Columbia River during the second half of February, and into March.

Beginning on February 13, river commerce being barged up and down the Columbia River will come to a five-week standstill. The Columbia River's commerce industry is worth $23 billion, according to a press release from the Portland District U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The closure of the navigation locks is due to annual maintenance and repairs needed on the Columbia and Snake River dams, for which the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is responsible. The difference this year is that the closure will be extended an extra three weeks longer than usual, partially because the miter gate downstream at The Dalles also needs repair.

Annual maintenance on the John Day dam will end March 5, with maintenance on the Bonneville Dam ending March 12.

Last year, technicians found damage at The Dalles navigation lock, which forced an emergency extended halt, the Corps said.

"These series of locks on the Lower Columbia are a vital piece of transportation infrastructure — the highway that moves our regions exports," Kym Anderson, Portland district operations division chief with the Corps, said in a statement. "Keeping the locks maintained during scheduled outages ensures that these systems stay open on a reliable schedule. We actively communicate any changes in our operating status to all river users to minimize impacts to navigation in this system."

The Corps coordinates closures with cruise lines and inland shippers to minimize impacts.

The Columbia River system is the number one U.S. export gateway for wheat, barley, and West Coast mineral bulk; is the number two U.S. export gateway for corn and soy; as well as a national leader for wood exports, auto imports, and auto exports, the Corps said.

Repairs are scheduled for completion by March 19.

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