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4 dead as severe storms hit Houston, TX; Election Protection Program eases access to voting information; surge in solar installations eases energy costs for Missourians; IN makes a splash for Safe Boating Week.

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The Supreme Court rules funding for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is okay, election deniers hold key voting oversight positions in swing states, and North Carolina lawmakers vote to ban people from wearing masks in public.

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Americans are buying up rubber ducks ahead of Memorial Day, Nebraskans who want residential solar have a new lifeline, seven community colleges are working to provide students with a better experience, and Mississippi's "Big Muddy" gets restoration help.

Patapsco River conditions slow progress on Key Bridge salvage

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Friday, April 5, 2024   

With temporary channels open to shallow draft vessels only a week after the collapse of the Key Bridge, officials see a much slower path to accommodating larger ships.

While dismantling the collapsed bridge may seem straightforward from vantage points on land, below the surface of the Patapsco River visibility is poor and the wreckage sits in 5 feet of mud. Crews are using 3D side scan sonar to conduct engineering analysis and plan next steps but progress is slow.

Estee Pinchasin, Baltimore District Army Corps of Engineers Commander Colonel, says moving this kind of debris requires constant engineering reassessment.

"When we lift a piece of wreckage, we have to go back in and ensure that the stability of the wreckage is the same, that the wreckage didn't shift or didn't act in a different way. Because as we're going further and further down, we don't want to create a more precarious situation," Pinchasin explained.

She added cranes operate so close to the wreckage that any unanticipated movement could place salvage teams at risk.

Thunderstorms and high winds this week slowed the process of surveying the wreckage. In addition to the many engineering challenges, Pinchasin said salvage efforts include searching for still missing disaster victims.

"The survey and the scanning that has to take place after every lift, we're not just doing it for engineering, we're also making sure that if there's any chance that we see an area that needs to be investigated further, for possible recovery of human remains, we are able to pause after every lift, to hopefully try to bring some closure to those families," she continued.

Pinchasin said a salvage effort of this scale has never been undertaken in the Baltimore District, but the Corps of Engineers brought help.

"We are not here alone," she stressed. "We have brought in the salvage experts from the United States Navy - the supervisor of salvage - and they have been able to bring in the salvage community, and that is a very strong brotherhood with expertise from decades of experience."


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