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Five of eight locks on Illinois Waterway set to close for maintenance in July

January 29, 2020   Marine Log

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Marine Log – New York, NY – 1/29/20


Operators and stakeholders of the Illinois Waterway—and its eight locks and dams connecting Lake Michigan and the Mississippi River—are about six months away from a lengthy waterway closure, writes Marine Log contributor Jack Dupré. During this period, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will conduct major maintenance work at five of the locks.


At present, the Corps is planning to conduct major maintenance and rehabilitation work for LaGrange, Peoria, Starved Rock, Marseilles and Dresden Island locks and dams, with simultaneous closures beginning the first week of July and extending three to four months, depending on the location.


The Corps had originally planned to close Brandon Road Lock and Dam during the July-to-October timeframe, but that work has now been postponed. The Corps already has upper miter gate installations for Brandon Road and Dresden Island locks on the schedule for 2023.


According to the current schedule, LaGrange Lock and Dam will undergo a full closure between July 1 and September 30 for major rehabilitation and lock machinery replacement. LaGrange Lock, located about 80 miles above the confluence of the Illinois and Mississippi rivers, opened to navigation in 1939.


The 81-year-old LaGrange Lock, along with the other Illinois Waterway locks, measures 110 feet by 600 feet. LaGrange provides vessels a maximum lift of 10 feet. Just over 27 million tons of cargo passes through LaGrange Lock annually (3-year average between 2015 and 2017), which makes LaGrange the busiest lock on the waterway. Major commodities include food and farm products (fertilizer), chemicals and petroleum products, and manufactured goods.


Peoria Lock and Dam is scheduled to undergo dewatering for routine maintenance and inspection, with the closure planned to last from July 6 to September 30. Located at mile 157.7 above the Mississippi River, Peoria Lock and Dam opened in 1939. Peoria and LaGrange both feature moveable wicket dams which can pass traffic when water levels are sufficient.


The closure at Starved Rock Lock and Dam is forecast to stretch from July 1 through October 29 and will include installation of new upper and lower miter gates. Starved Rock Lock and Dam, located 231 miles above the Illinois River’s confluence with the Mississippi, features a 1,280-foot dam. About half the dam is a tainter gate section. The dam also features an ice chute. The maximum lift at Starved Rock is 18.5 feet.


Marseilles Lock and Dam is set to receive a new upper miter gate during its closure, which is forecast to last from July 6 to October 29. While the State of Illinois began construction on Marseilles Lock and Dam in 1920, the federal government eventually took over the project, with most of the lock completed in 1923 and the dam finished a decade later.


Finally, Dresden Island Lock and Dam will undergo a partial closure between July 6 and October 3, a 3-week full closure beginning October 4, then another partial closure from October 25 to October 28, all for upper bulkhead recess installation. Located at mile 271.5 on the Illinois Waterway, Dresden Lock opened to navigation in 1933.


The Corps notes that, with sufficient flows, navigation could continue through LaGrange and Peoria locks and dams, thanks to their moveable wicket dams. The closures will not affect normal pools along the Illinois Waterway.