Saturday, June 7, 2008


Dock Wall is Failing Where Barges are Tied Up

Special to the Readers of

By Michael Horne

Two construction barges, lashed together, one carrying an erect 70 ft crane, are breaking free and within 6 feet of striking the Holton Viaduct. The Milwaukee Fire Department is on the scene, and three fire fighters are on board one of the barges. The barges are moored immediately upstream from the Holton Viaduct and are part of the construction equipment involved in the Edge condominium project.
Typically the vessels are moored parallel to the riverbank. However, the high waters and stiff currents have angled them at nearly a 45 degree angle, increasing the pressures on the dockwall to which they are moored. The two barges, lashed to each other, are separating. About two thirds of the flow of the river is going into a "V" created between the barges and the dockwall. That amount is increasing, leading to the stress.
A series of "pops" was audible around 9 p.m., when this writer sought refuge under the bridge during a torrent and took a stroll on its Marsupial Bridge walkway to observe the river's condition after heavy rainfall. Clearly something was wrong with the position of the barges, which had been at that site for some weeks. It was then that the "pops" were heard. First one, (dismissed as bottles being disposed at the adjacent Lakefront Brewery, where an event was taking place) then perhaps five more. The blue rope holding the barge fast to its failing anchor was stretched taught. The once-perpendicular dockwall, of quite recent vintage, is bowed for perhaps a twenty foot length, and extends some 6 feet further into the river than previously. The construction crane could easily be a hazard in its position, since it might crumple should it slam into the bridge, which itself might be able to handle the brunt of a wayward barge.
I'll be back to tell you what transpires. It would be reasonable to assume that the brunt of the water from the recent storms has yet to reach the vicinity. The amount of debris and snags accumulating in the crotch where the two barges (one longer than the other) merge is threatening to pile on board. An armada of logs, piers and other flotsam marches rapidly downstream.