Illinois Waterway Slowly Thaws, Navigation Traffic Resumes

Barge traffic resumed on the Illinois Waterway as temperatures rose and the country’s midsection recovered from the polar vortex. Jeff Lebeau, assistant lockmaster at Starved Rock Lock and Dam, said February 24 was the first day that temperatures went above freezing. 

According to Lebeau, floating pack ice at his lock and dam is still thick enough to require transiting towboats to use an assist boat. “The winch isn’t strong enough to pull cuts against the ice,” he told The Waterways Journal.

The lock removed its 105-foot width restriction February 24 and went back to a 108-foot width.

“It’s not as bad up north, towards Chicago,” Lebeau said. “Boats can move around a little bit easier up there. There may be some ice jams around Marseilles,” he said, referring to Marseilles Lock and Dam. 

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In its February 24 newsletter, American Currents, American Commercial Barge Lines said, “Conditions are improving on the Illinois River, and ACBL is in the process of planning for re-entry into the river.  No dates have been set, but once barge operations resume on the Illinois, expect delays.”

ACBL suspended operation on the waterway on February 8, when a blast of frigid arctic temperatures quickly built up ice.