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Corps commences Illinois Waterway repairs

Several lock and dam sites along waterway will be closed during work.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has begun a series of several repairs along the Illinois Waterway, which provides a navigable connection between Lake Michigan and the Mississippi River through a total of eight lock and dam sites. Long overdue for significant repairs, the Corps’ Rock Island District has developed a consolidated repair schedule, which included a short closure to locks in 2019 followed by two extended closures in 2020 and 2023. The closures are scheduled to take place simultaneously to lessen the impact to commercial navigation as much as possible.

“All lock and dam facilities on the Illinois Waterway have a single lock chamber for passing vessels. During the scheduled closures, no vessels will be able to pass through the affected locks. An exception to this restriction could occur at the LaGrange and Peoria [Ill.] locks if water levels become high enough that the wicket portions of the dams could be lowered for open pass. This would allow vessels to pass around the dam without using the lock.”

Navigation on the rest of the river between the locks will not be affected by the closures, the Corps said, adding that recreational and commercial vessels will be able to navigate within the pools without restriction.

A summary of the work and schedule is as follows:

  • LaGrange Lock & Dam – Major rehabilitation and lock machinery replacement. Full closure scheduled from July 1 to Sept. 30.
  • Peoria Lock & Dam – Dewatering for maintenance and inspection. Full closure scheduled from July 6 to Sept. 30.
  • Starved Rock Lock & Dam – Upper and lower miter gate installation. Full closure scheduled from July 1 to Oct. 29.
  • Marseilles Lock & Dam – Upper miter gate installation. Full closure scheduled from July 6 to Oct. 29.
  • Dresden Island Lock & Dam – Upper bulkhead recess installation. Partial closure scheduled from July 6 to Oct. 3 and Oct. 25-28. Full closure scheduled Oct. 4-24.

Mike Steenhoek, executive director of the Soy Transportation Coalition, said despite the temporary inconveniences and additional costs, the rehabilitation work on the Illinois River locks is a significant benefit to agriculture and other industries.

“It does not require a professional engineer to be able to diagnose that it is not a matter of ‘if’ there would be future mechanical failures at some of these lock and dam sites; it is more a matter of ‘when’ they occur,” he said. “The crumbling concrete and widespread rust at a number of these sites – particularly LaGrange Lock and Dam – are evident to even a casual observer.”

He continued, “Agriculture, the barge industry and other stakeholders have been advocating for this work for a number of years and are pleased it is finally proceeding. We appreciate the Army Corps of Engineers for providing advanced notice of this work so that agricultural and other shippers could develop alternative arrangements during this period when the river is essentially closed for barge transportation. We also appreciate how this work will occur concurrently, rather than subsequently, so that the length of the river closure will be as brief as possible.”

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