Event Pictorials
 
WATERWAY BRIDGING UNIT TEST
September 6, 2014
Ongoing concerns about potential lengthy Portage Lake Lift Bridge closings, have brought many ideas forward about how to create alternative waterway crossings for emergency vehicles and necessary product delivery trucks. One proposal was to utilize the bridging units used by the Army National Guard Unit base at Sault Saint Marie, MI. To that end, a trial run was organized to see how feasible the system might be in an emergency.
The temporary bridging system, called the Rapdily Emplaced Bridge System (REBS), was truck convoyed from the Soo to the Portage Coast Guard Base, in Dollar Bay on Friday, September 5th, and assembled on their dock platform, for deployment on Saturday. The day dawned quite windy, but clear, and shortly before noon, the assembled unit, powered by several inboard special water propulsion craft, traveled East to a ramp prepared at the Houghton National Park System docking area. This is the unit as it looked before taking on several different vehicles for its first run across to the Ripley Houghton County Marina for off loading, which was very successful, despite wind gusts at the Houghton County Airport of 34 mph.
 
Having returned to the Houghton side, and receiving a Kiwanis Chicken Barbeque lunch, they readied the unit for one more run across the Waterway. If you look at the center of the photo, in the highlighted area, one of two small sailboats operating in the Waterway, has overturned, dumping its two occupants into the water, who are now clinging to the overturned craft. The two occupants, wet and cold, are able to climb on top of the craft’s hull. Seeing the emergency, one of the National Guard power boats heads to give assistance, while a second sail boat checks on the crew's well being. Arriving at the scene, the Guard unit checks on what can be done.
The Power boat (behind the sail) and it’s personnel get a hold of the sail in the water, and help lift it upwards while the sailboat’s crew push down on the stabilizing board, to try and upright the boat. The Portage Coast Guard 47' boat stands by to assist. And they are successful, as the two crew members climb back aboard, wet, but OK. A second successful mission for the Soo National Guard, who saw a bad situation and did what needed doing. Back at the NPS dock, they now load aboard a large truck used to put the REBS units together, for a run back to the Coast Guard Station. And with a power boat on each side for propulsion and steering, the system leaves the dock.
With little effort and making good time, the system will make a U-turn to the west, to make a pass at the Ripley boat launch. And making the turn OK, heads west to the Bridge. Even with a stiff westerly head wind, the REBS is able to make about 5-7 knots of headway, and is easily steered by the power boats. Since one successful transfer was already done, no attempt to drop the vehicle off was made on this trip. The REBS made another U-turn at the Portage Lake Lift Bridge, and then headed East to the Coast Guard Station, where it will be disassembled, and loaded onto special trucks for the convoy back to the Soo. A very successful demonstration indeed, and now at least one proven means of providing some emergency traffic movement if needed due to a length Bridge closure, at least during the spring to fall months.
             
           
 
Photos: Roland Burgan r-burgan@charter.net
 
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