CHICAGO May 8 Barge shipping returned to normal
this week on most of the Illinois River after spring floods, but
lock repairs will halt navigation on a northern stretch for at
least a week beginning on Friday, the Army Corps of Engineers
and Coast Guard said.
Marseilles Lock and Dam near Seneca, Illinois, was
critically damaged when seven barges broke loose from a tow on
April 18, tearing 20-foot (6-meter) holes in two of the dam's
The Army Corps plans to draw down the pool of water above
the lock by four feet so crews can construct a rock dike below
the dam, the first step in a repair process that could take
months to complete.
"The river will be way below the nine-foot navigation
requirement once we start the drawdown," said Allen Marshall,
spokesman for the Army Corps Rock Island district, referring to
the minimum depth most commercial boats need.
"Right now the Coast Guard is coordinating getting barges
and recreational boats out of the area," he said.
The rock dike, expected to be completed by May 20, is aimed
at reducing the flow of water through the damaged gates during
repairs and may also help hold water in the Marseilles pool. The
pool refers to the 27-mile (43-km) section of the river between
the damaged lock and the next lock upriver, Dresden Island near
The rest of the repair project could take several months,
although the Corps had no exact estimate yet. The area should
reopen to navigation, possibly with some restrictions, as long
as the dam can maintain a deep enough upriver pool.
Grain shippers and barge operators have been scrambling this
week to move vessels upriver or downriver from the lock and out
of the Marseilles pool.
"They told the industry that, basically, nobody will be able
to go in and out of that pool with any loads so the river will
effectively only be open from Marseilles south all next week," a
barge broker said.
"There's probably some people that won't get everything
moved south of there but the majority will," he said.
The Illinois River bisects the country's No. 2 corn- and
soybean-producing state from Chicago to its confluence with the
Mississippi River near Alton, Illinois. Both rivers are critical
shipping arteries linking grain producers in the Midwest with
export terminals at the Gulf, the exit point for about 60
percent of all U.S. grain exports.
There are only five grain elevators upriver from Marseilles,
one each in Seneca and Morris and the rest in Chicago, so the
impact on grain shipments was minimal, traders said.
Receding floodwaters on the rest of the river prompted the
CME Group to lift its force majeure declaration on Illinois
(Reporting by Karl Plume; Editing by Dale Hudson)