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Damaged River Lock Stalls U.S. Grain Exports to Asia
USAgNet - 09/12/2019

The flow of grains and other commodities through the U.S. Pacific Northwest has stalled because of a broken river lock at the Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River, along the Oregon-Washington border.

According to Reuters, the stoppage adds another worry for U.S. farmers at a time when wheat prices have tumbled to multi-year lows, reflecting fierce competition for export business amid burdensome U.S. and world grain supplies.

Typically, grain export terminals along the Columbia River load and ship about half of all U.S. wheat exports, mostly bound for Asian markets such as Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and the Philippines, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture export inspections data.

The Bonneville navigation lock was closed and emptied over the weekend after crews with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which operates the facility, noted the lock appeared to be leaking water below its gates. Inspectors found a crack in a concrete sill at the base of the gates that prevented the lock from closing properly, a Corps spokesman said.

The breakdown halted Columbia River traffic at Bonneville, including barges bearing grain from eastern Oregon, Washington and Idaho to Pacific Northwest export terminals, reports Reuters.

More than 100,000 tons of product and at least one cruise ship have been stranded above the Bonneville lock, Kristin Meira, executive director of the Pacific Northwest Waterways Association said.

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