By: Paige Rouse,
for the Port of Hood River
The past year has brought with it some remarkable events – and remarkable challenges – for the Port of Hood River Maintenance and Facilities crew. The June 3, 2016 oil train derailment in nearby Mosier caused a fire that closed I-84 in both directions for more than 12 hours. Port crews worked to supply first responders with oil booms and cleanup supplies that were rushed to the site via motorboat and helped to contain the spilled oil. Freeway traffic was detoured in both directions over the bridge, and crews worked hard to assist Oregon and Washington State Police and transportation departments in handling the traffic snarl. Afterwards, significant deck welding and guard rail repairs kept crews busy for days.
More intensive repair and upgrade work on the bridge came next, as Port crews assisted Stafford Bandlow Engineers in addressing damages related to a suspected barge allision against the north lift tower pier in late 2015. The bridge’s lift span mechanics and electrical systems went through several inspections, each requiring periodic closures of the bridge for lifts. The lift span’s skew system and electrical controls were also upgraded. As such a busy and important transportation link for our entire region, any closure of the bridge causes headaches, but Port crews make it a priority to ensure safety of workers and bridge users while also working to make closures as brief as possible.
A frustrating and elusive electrical issue affecting the C Dock north tenants in the Marina kept Port crews busy from July through December as the cause of power breaker trips evaded detection by even expert electricians and engineers. On-call response to power trips became a constant scheduling challenge while long-term solutions remained undiscovered. Crews installed GFCI breakers on each pedestal on C Dock in an effort to disrupt the dock-wide outages, but the cause of the trips remains unsolved.
Extreme winter weather affects almost everyone around Port facilities, and this season has been especially challenging. Significant winter storms started just after Thanksgiving, and have been relentless through December, January, and early February. Removing snow and ice on the bridge, especially on the approaches, is the number one priority for Port maintenance staff.
The already narrow lanes leave little room for snowbanks, and ice build-up on the steel deck and other parts of the bridge can create hazardous conditions. Keeping this essential transportation link open and clear often means long nights and early mornings for maintenance crews.
Likewise, snow removal for the Ken Jernstedt Airfield runway, fuel dock, FBO, and hangars is important for access. “Everything that has black top at the Airport gets cleared,” explained Lewis Ambers, facilities maintenance lead. “We have to use caution where we place big piles of snow so there is clearance for wingspans.”
On top of those two significant needs, the Hood River Marina, plus Port parking lots and sidewalks require clearing. Lot 1 also requires snow removal for eventualities of I-84 closures. The Port coordinates with ODOT for vehicles to park there to wait out the storm. (I-84 has closed three times so far this winter.)
To aid in their efforts, maintenance staff has two heavy-duty trucks with hydraulic front plows, a Freightliner dumptruck with massive plow, a John Deere tractor to dig snow if they aren’t able to plow, plus a lightweight snowblower – oh yes, and shovels. The maintenance department employs seven full-time workers year-round: three plow at night beginning at either 11:30 p.m. or 2:00 a.m., and the others begin at 5:00 a.m.