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home : news : north central illinois   May 3, 2016

4/27/2013 6:00:00 AM
Commercial river traffic could be delayed weeks

Kevin Caufield
NewsTribune Reporter

MARSEILLES — A “significant and real” economic impact to Illinois River commercial barge traffic could occur depending on damage caused to the Illinois River lock at Marseilles, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Army Corps Col. Mark Deschenes said two of the seven barges that struck the lock during last week’s flooding remain pinned against two lock gateways, preventing them from closing.

As a result, Illinois River levels from Marseilles to the Dresden Lock and Dam east near Joliet could drop to 8 feet, well below minimal depth for most commercial barge traffic.

“There could be a significant and real economic impact,” Deschenes said Friday. “There is no structural damage identified at the lock at this time, but we haven’t been able to look under the water yet. It’s unlikely there is damage, but if there is, it will cause a significant impact.”

Currently, the Illinois River in this area is closed to all commercial and recreational river traffic as a result of recent record-breaking flooding.

U.S. Coast Guard, Army Corps and local dam personnel have been working to remove the remaining barges that are pinned to the lock and inspect any damage. They worry that once the pinned barges are removed, and if the two gates don’t shut that water levels will drop to a “flat pool” level.

“We’re expecting this part of the river to reach flat pool levels by next week,” said Andrew Barnes, senior project manager for the Army Corps. “Our first goals will be to stabilize the dam and stabilize the pool.”

Army Corps Capt. Matt Sibley said officials have been drawing up plans to deal with the expected flat pool. One likely scenario involves spending three weeks to construct a massive stone dike from one shore to a river island near Marseilles.

“Our highest priorities right now are safety and identifying what we don’t know,” Sibley said. “We’re looking at a three-week period where a lot is up in the air. We want to get commerce flowing again but we have to make sure the dam is safe.”

Kevin Caufield can be reached at (815) 220-6932 or

Related Stories:
• Between a rock and a wet place: Marseilles Dam work continues

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