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Foss Makes History with New Columbia River Route

September 2, 2009

Foss successfully pioneered a new commercial route deep into Canada on the Columbia River in August, navigating through sometimes fast and shallow water to safely deliver a new 190-ton turbine for British Columbia's largest hydro-electric dam.

Three shallow-draft tugs guided the turbine upriver on a 160-by-40-foot barge equipped with two 300-horsepower thrusters. A jet boat led the procession from Coulee City, just above Grand Coulee Dam, about 368 miles to Shelter Bay, near the Revelstoke Dam. The trip took 11 days.

"We put together a great, experienced team with local knowledge, and we know what we're doing up there," said Tim Beyer, Foss director of regional towing, who managed the move. "Our team is as good as it gets for this kind of job."

Capt. Ed Haglund, former Foss manager in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, oversaw the marine side of the operation. With Capt. Sam Landrum, also a former Foss Coeur d'Alene hand, Haglund made about 10 trips upriver to scout the route over the last four years.

During this summer's trip, Haglund said the former Foss tugs Cougar and Pine Cat, now owned by him and Landrum, and the tug River Chief, owned by Capt. Eric Weatherman of Columbia Navigation in Kettle Falls, fought through currents and rapids running up to 10 knots.

"When you're running through water like that, you have to be at the right place at the right time, and if you're not in position you're in trouble — that's all there is to it," Haglund said. "We knew just what we needed to do."

In 2002, Foss became the first to use the upper Columbia for commercial navigation, towing a 135-ton turbine from Coulee City to Trail, B.C. just north of the border. This summer's trip was about 155 miles farther upriver.

The voyage took the small convoy up Lake Roosevelt and then through the river to Northport, a relatively mild passage with the exception of a section called Deadman's Eddy, described as narrow and full or boulders.

After crossing the border, the boats passed Waneta Dam, where the Pend Oreille river flows into the Columbia, then traveled stretches of narrow river below, between and above the Arrow Lakes before arriving in Shelter Bay, where the turbine was unloaded at a ferry landing. It was carried from there over land to the hydro plant by a prime mover.

The tug skippers were in direct communication with B.C. Hydro representatives, who made the trip possible by regulating the flow of water through three dams above several critical areas to manipulate and minimize currents.

In one section of fast water just north of the border near Trail, Haglund said the speed gauge on his tug went to zero. "We were wondering there for a minute, but we twisted the barge back and forth up through the rapid, and with all the boats and thrusters running full bore, we made her through."

Farther north, near Rock Island, the convoy hit a back eddy that carried them upstream at about eight knots over the bottom.

"And as soon as you hit the current again, you have to put the coals to her," Haglund declared.

Later, B.C. Hydro helped the group through Tin Cup Rapids by increasing the flow of the Kootenay River. The Kootenay flows into the Columbia slightly downstream from the rapids, and increasing its volume had the effect of creating a dam, both deepening the water in the rapids and slowing it down.

Capts. Haglund, Landstrum and Weatherman were joined on the trip by another former Foss veteran, Capt. Forest Schmeling. Capt. Mike Morey and Capt. Allan Burkhardt were on the River Chief, Weatherman was the barge pilot, and Toby Jacobsen (Foss CSR port captain) ran the jet boat.

"We also had a solid support team," Beyer said, "with Captain Tom Alford, (experienced with z-drives) operating the thruster units, Mark Troutman, Foss' Port Engineer, and Bill Williams."

"We had a lot of fun," Haglund said. "There were no big bosses. We just worked together and everybody just got the job done"

The journey into Canada was the last leg of a long trip for the turbine. It was manufactured in Brazil, arrived by ship in Vancouver, Wash., and Foss towed it aboard the barge 185 C-3 to Pasco with the tug Lewiston. From there, a Prime Mover moved it over land to Coulee City.

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