November 18. 2013 11:46AM

Salvage barge was salvaged itself in Portsmouth Sunday

Union Leader Correspondent

PORTSMOUTH — A salvage barge was salvaged itself late Sunday night after sinking in the Piscataqua River near the Kittery Point Yacht Club on Saturday.

Around 4 p.m. Saturday, the U.S. Coast Guard received a distress call from a self-propelled barge with a crane on it and operated by Pepperrell Cove Marine in Portsmouth.

The barge operator said he had struck an object near the old Naval prison, and his forward compartment was taking on water.

“He was going downriver, but the tide was coming in so he was trying to catch the eddy currents and was passing an area where some construction was going on,” Coast Guard Ensign Connan Ingham said Monday. “We believe some of the rubble may have come down into the river and may have caused an obstruction.”

Ingham said that is still under investigation and has not been confirmed.

The area where the boat struck something is deep, Ingham said, so the barge operator moved to the south side of the river where the barge ended up completely submerged.

Due to restrictive visibility Saturday night, salvage operations were halted, but a boom was put in around the vessel and a light was put on board to make sure no one ran into it.

Salvage operations resumed around 7:30 a.m. Sunday, and eventually crews were able to float the barge, patch it up, drain it, and bring it to shore.

It was towed to Dead Duck Landing around 11 p.m. Sunday and hauled out of the water.

Ingham said they are surveying the area where the barge struck something to see what happened, and if there is an obstruction, some sort of marker will be placed to warn other boaters.

“Because it’s still under investigation, there is not too much action we can take yet,” Ingham said.

The lone operator of the barge was assisted off the boat by the Coast Guard when they realized the drainage effort was not going to be successful. Ingham said they are not releasing the name of the operator, but they did conduct a breathalyzer test and ruled out alcohol as a cause.

The fuel tanks of the barge were inspected by divers while it was submerged, and they were intact. Ingham said there was a slight sheening, but they believe it came from the oily residue on the deck itself.