Illinois Waterway Lock Closures

Written by Chuck Baier
July 15, 2020

From The Waterways Journal Weekly…

The long-planned closure of six Illinois River locks and dams began July 1, with the full closure of LaGrange Lock and Dam and Starved Rock Lock and Dam to extend through September 30. They were followed by the full closures of Peoria Lock and Dam and Marseilles Lock and Dam July 6, to extend through October 29.

Mike Walsh,  Chief of locks and dams for the Illinois Waterway with the Rock Island Engineer District, said crews were busy pulling gates and setting bulkheads. His only concern was with the unusually hot weather; central Illinois is experiencing a spell of temperatures in the 90s, with heat indexes in the 100s, that could last for a couple of weeks, requiring added safety measures for crews. The closures will allow simultaneous major repairs and replacements to the lock structures.

• At LaGrange Lock and Dam in Versailles, Ill., rehab work will include dewatering the lock chamber to replace severely worn lock gate machinery and make significant repairs to crumbling concrete and steel structures. This work is anticipated to take up to 120 days to complete.

• At Peoria Lock and Dam in Creve Coeur, Ill., the work will include dewatering the lock chamber for about 60 days to perform inspections and maintenance of areas usually submerged.

• At Starved Rock and Dam in Ottawa, Ill., and Marseilles Lock and Dam in Marseilles, Ill., the lock chambers will also be dewatered in order to reconstruct miter gate sills and replace anchorages in preparation for new miter gates to be installed. This work is expected to take up to 120 days.

• Dresden Island Lock and Dam in Morris, Ill., and Brandon Road Lock and Dam in Joliet, Ill., are anticipated to be only partly closed, allowing for traffic to pass at night. Work will include installing bulkhead recesses so that future maintenance and dewaterings will be possible. Width restrictions will be necessary for part of the time while the slots are under construction, and a shorter, two-week full closure will be needed at some point during the process to construct the bulkhead sill across the bottom of each lock chamber.

The closures mean that a major grain-shipping artery will be denied to shippers through much of this year’s harvest season, although shippers have had several years to coordinate alternate arrangements. The major rehab work should provide many years of extra service to locks that had been operating well past their original lifespans. At the urgent request of inland waterways interests, the repair jobs were grouped as closely together as possible to consolidate and minimize shipping disruptions.

Navigation on the river between the locks will not be affected by the closures. Recreational and commercial vessels will be able to navigate within the pools without restriction. According to Walsh, recreational traffic in the pools was high for the Fourth of July weekend. “We’ve done a pretty good job of communicating with the rec boaters,” he said.

Commercial traffic in the pools was limited to a few local barge switches, he said.

Updated information on the closures will be posted to https://www.mvr.usace.army.mil/Missions/Navigation/Navigation-Status/

There will be additional closures in 2023 for further work, including the installation of miter gates at Dresden Island Lock and Dam, electrical rehab at Marseilles Lock and Dam and upper bulkhead recess installation and upper miter gate installation at Brandon Road Lock and Dam. The three-year delay was designed to allow the navigation industry to recover from the 2020 closures.

Chuck Baier

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