Dredge sinking in Lake Norman has officials concerned, divers prepping for recovery

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Lake Norman

By Dana Baker, Mooresville Tribune

MOORESVILLE, NC — A dredging company lost an excavator when it toppled off a barge into Lake Norman two weeks ago. No one was injured and so far no fuel has leaked into the water.

But until the 60,000-pound track hoe — submerged in 88 feet of water — is hauled up and towed safely to shore, all concerns about environmental danger are not over.

“I wouldn’t write this off until it’s out of the water,” Lake Norman Marine Commissioner Rich Permenter said following Monday’s monthly meeting of the marine board. “One of my big things is to make sure any risk of a spill is minimized.”

The sunken Link-Belt Long Reach Excavator owned by Lake Norman Dredging Company has been located using a scan and the Global Positioning System between Markers 2 and 3 in Mecklenburg County. Permenter said it poses no surface navigational hazard.

And although the 100-gallon diesel fuel tank is estimated to have less than 15 gallons in the tank, a sealed 50-gallon hydraulic fluid tank is full.

Permenter said the dredging company’s owner, Shannon Miller, was advised to have a certified spill responder onsite during the raising, towing, and take-out operation scheduled for sometime next week.  Miller said Tuesday his insurance company is in the process of hiring all the different companies necessary to do the work including a commercial diving company.

“It’s very dangerous working a machine over the water. The potential for an ugly accident is always there, and we’re lucky no one was hurt and there wasn’t a spill,” he said, adding that this was the first time an occurrence like this had taken place.

Miller’s father started the Mooresville dock building company and began dredging operations in 1980.

“My apologies to any inconvenience this has caused anyone on the lake, but we are team players and we are doing all we can to insure this is done properly,” said Miller. He added that the dredging machine should be salvageable if raised correctly.

Permenter met with Miller, as well as officials from Lincoln County sheriff’s and fire departments, Duke Energy Lake Management and Mecklenburg County Water Quality Control last Thursday.

Bruce White of the Lincoln County Lake Patrol said the accident occurred when the barge started taking on water. Workers tried to shift the load to the front end, when it fell into the water.

Permenter said the plan discussed at last Thursday’s meeting includes using divers to attach lift cables and employing large bags, sealed for buoyancy to raise the excavator to the surface. The equipment will then be towed to a take-out point on Slanting Bridge Road in Catawba County, and placed on shore using a crane.

Diver-down flags will be on display during diving operations to warn boaters away from the site. The Marine Commission will use a “Notice to Boaters” email system to inform the public and is asking boaters to keep clear of the area while work is underway.

www2.mooresvilletribune.com

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