Two barges, one carrying a huge construction crane, drifted about four miles down the Kentucky River during last weekend's flooding before stopping next to the old U.S. 27 bridge in Jessamine County.
The barges will be moved once the river goes down, Jerry Graves, executive director of the Kentucky River Authority, said Tuesday.
"We'll wait for the water to go down, then disassemble everything, move it back up the river, and put it where it needs to be," Graves said.
"The barges nestled up against the old abandoned bridge, which kept them from going on down the river," he said. "It's probably the best thing that could have happened."
If the barges had continued downstream, they could have smashed into the Brooklyn Bridge, which carries U.S. 68 over the Kentucky River between Fayette and Mercer counties, Graves said.
Instead, the barges made the trip without causing significant damage, officials said Tuesday.
Graves said the crane onboard has a boom about 100 feet tall, extending above the old bridge.
The crane and the barges are owned by C.J. Mahan, an marine construction company based in Ohio. They were being used for work on a new dam at Lock 8 on the Kentucky River, Graves said.
The barges somehow broke loose Friday night after they were checked at 1 p.m., possibly because of high water and swift currents from thunderstorms Thursday night and Friday. The river current probably was moving at 8 to 10 mph Friday night, Graves said.
"I'd say it was due to the river coming up so quickly in such a short period of time."
On their way downstream, the unmanned barges passed under the new U.S. 27 bridge between Jessamine and Garrard counties. There were unfounded reports of damage.
The crane's boom reportedly "nicked" the bridge as it passed underneath. State transportation inspectors who checked the span Friday night found no damage, Graves said.
There also was a report than the barges "took out" another, older bridge.
State Transportation Cabinet spokeswoman Natasha Lacy also said no bridge was knocked down.
Graves said there was a report, still unconfirmed, that the barges hit a fiber-optic cable.
"There were all kinds of rumors floating around, but I know of no structural damage to anything," he said.
The plan now is to make sure the barges are securely anchored at the riverbank until they can be moved, officials said.
"I was worried," Graves said. "I didn't want to take out the Brooklyn Bridge. I think we dodged a bullet there."