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Barges: It Takes All Kinds

The runner is being offloaded near Valemont and trucked to the Mica Dam.

KINBASKET LAKE - In July 2013 an 83-year-old barge of riveted steel construction performed admirably in the transport of a $30 million plus runner (turbine) to the Mica Dam site on Kinbasket Lake in BC's interior. The 184' x 39' 300 mt (light ship) CANADIAN NATIONAL No. 108 (ON 156973) was built in 1930 as a rail barge for the Canadian National Railway and, with two rails on its deck for eight rail-cars and navigated by a tug on its hip, served on Okanagan Lake. The barge was constructed by Canadian Government Merchant Marine Ltd in Montreal, cut into 13 sections then shipped west by rail for reassembly on the Columbia River. Owned since 1991 by Downie Timber of Revelstoke BC, the No. 108, being the only barge available on Kinbasket Lake large enough to carry the runner to the dam site (there are no roads into the area for truck transport), was pressed into service. The runner was fabricated for BC Hydro by Andritz Hydro of Germany and was transported by ship to Houston TX. It was then trucked north through the US into Alberta, then to the south end of Kinbasket Lake.
Capilano Maritime Design (North Vancouver) performed the calculations for loading and unloading the runner, plus the stability of the load for the voyage, and acted as barge superintendent. They were also responsible for ensuring the No 108 was seaworthy for carriage of its pricey cargo. This involved strengthening the barge's deck where the load would be concentrated and refurbishing the riveted hull. The total weight of the all- stainless steel runner on its flat-deck trailer and two truck tractors was 260 long tons. With the barge high and dry on the lake shore, new steel pillars were installed along the centreline by a Downie Timber crew and local welders. Rivets were replaced with nuts, bolts, washers and sealant.
Downie Timber's three lake tugs - the 36 ft 332-hp ALLANDALE, the 30-ft 245-hp CELLCO and the 32-ft 235-hp MPF - pushed the CANADIAN NATIONAL No. 108 for the duration of the 113 nm, 14-hour voyage. The original plan had the ALLANDALE towing the barge, assisted by the two smaller tugs. However the tug operators were used to pushing on the lake so they went the distance in that mode.
<p>Prior to the voyage the route was flown by helicopter to scout out bays and headlands where the vessels could shelter from wind, as well as shoaling areas where the barge could be grounded if need be. There was a battery of pumps on board as well.
The Mica Dam was completed in 1973 with three turbines. The CANADIAN NATIONAL NO.8 brought the dam's fourth turbine last July and, when the fifth arrives from Germany, likely in later 2013, the venerable barge will again be called into service to do the same Kinbasket Lake run.