Locks and Dams

This Summer’s Illinois Waterway Lock Closures On Schedule

“Mother nature cooperated” this spring to allow the Corps of Engineers to get a jump on some equipment staging related to this summer’s scheduled closures of locks and dams on the Illinois Waterway, according to Mike Blaske, general manager at Illinois Marine Towing and president of the Illinois River Carriers Association. As a result of favorable weather earlier this spring, he said, the Rock Island Engineer District was able to do some preparatory work at LaGrange Lock and Dam and Peoria Lock and Dam.

Whether that favorable weather will continue is an open question. The Illinois Waterway, which provides a navigable connection between Lake Michigan and the Mississippi River, includes eight lock and dam sites that are long overdue for significant repairs. During the scheduled closures that are due to begin July 1 and to last about 120 days, no vessels will be able to pass through the affected locks. Recreational and commercial vessels will be able to navigate within the pools without restriction during the closures.

The Rock Island District developed the consolidated repair schedule at the request of the barge industry. The locks were closed for a short period in 2019; this year’s closure will be followed by another extended closure in 2023. The closures of all the locks were scheduled to coincide as much as possible to concentrate the work and lessen impact to commercial navigation.

An exception to this restriction could occur at the LaGrange and Peoria locks, if water levels become high enough that the wicket portions of the dams could be lowered for open-pass, allowing vessels to pass around the dam without using the lock.

Blaske said shippers have had plenty of time to prepare for this. “During these closures, Chicago will be cut off from the rest of the country by water. Last year was a big planning year; shippers and operators made all their plans, including storage.”

Details and dates of the closures, which are subject to change, are available on the Rock Island Engineer District’s website at https://www.mvr.usace.army.mil/Missions/Navigation/Navigation-Status/.