As the work passes the halfway point, three closed and dewatered locks and dams on the Illinois Waterway are on schedule for reopening September 30.
“It’s on task and on schedule,” said Adam Ziegler, project manager for the closure for the Rock Island Engineer District. “We’re scheduled for the end of September for an opening, and everything is tracking to meet that schedule at this point in time.”
The 120-day closure, which began June 1, is replacing the miter gates and related machinery at the Brandon Road and Dresden Island locks. At Marseilles Lock, conduits are being installed beneath the lock chamber that are necessary for relocating electrical equipment to the land-side of the lock in the future.
Alberici Constructors Inc. has the contract for the work at Dresden Island Lock. J.F. Brennan Company Inc. is performing the work at Brandon Road Lock. Corps of Engineers crews are completing the electrical conduit work at Marseilles Lock.
While the project schedule had originally called for replacement of miter gate machinery at Marseilles and Starved Rock locks as well, that work was unable to be completed due to increased funding requirements, Ziegler said.
New miter gate machinery is being manufactured, but it will be placed in storage until installation can take place. That installation will take weeks, not months, Tom Heinold, chief of operations for the Rock Island District, said earlier this year.
“After the work this summer, our intent is to go for another generation and not have an extended closure,” he said at the time.
Several locks along the waterway were last closed in 2020 for the beginning of the multi-phase repair project. Follow-up work will not take place until after 2025 at the earliest, Ziegler said. Intermittent closures will allow final work at Marseilles and Starved Rock locks to take place and will not be as extensive as the work performed in 2020 and this year, he said.
The Corps has worked extensively with navigation interests in scheduling the closures, Ziegler said. This year’s closures were able to begin a month earlier, in June instead of in July, when the 2020 closure began, because these locks are not subject to seasonal flooding, unlike the LaGrange Lock, Ziegler said. That will also allow the closure to conclude before the bulk of the harvest transportation begins in Illinois in October, he said.
While they have not affected the overall closure schedule, some surprises have been uncovered during the work already performed.
Perhaps the largest of those was the discovery of a Civil War-era parrot round, an explosive projectile, on the bottom of the lock chamber at the Brandon Road site.
“Nobody knows how it got there,” Ziegler said. “It’s not been there since the lock was built.”
The unexploded shell was discovered June 17 and disposed of that day in a nearby quarry by an unexploded-ordnance team. Crews were required to avoid the area for about a half day as a result.
Additionally, the dewatering showed some cracks in the lower miter gates at all three locks. These gates had been installed in the 1990s.
“We’ve got in-house crews doing weld repairs at all three sites,” Ziegler said. “It has not impacted the closure schedule. It was not planned for work, but it’s definitely something we’ve been able to pivot and take care of.”
Additionally, he said, quoin blocks, which support the miter gates when closed, also must be repaired at both the Marseilles and Brandon Road locks. That work is expected to take place during the months of August and September.
Matthew Coffelt, deputy project manager for the Illinois Waterway Closure for the Rock Island District, updated the Inland Waterways Board on the waterway closure at the board’s July 20 meeting in Paducah, Ky., also reporting that the project remains on schedule.
IWUB chairman Spencer Murphy thanked Coffelt for the update and reiterated the importance of continuing to communicate with industry representatives regarding the project’s schedule.
“Whether that’s a week early, a week late or right on time, you cannot overcommunicate with industry with what that looks like,” he said.
Ziegler said the Corps remains committed to staying in close contact as work progresses. Currently, he said, work is scheduled to take place through the full duration of the scheduled closure.
Other Waterway Projects
The IWUB also heard updates at its meeting on two projects on the waterway that are not part of the current closure.
Board member Martin Hettel asked about planned work on the gates at Lockport Lock and Dam. The gates are currently being fabricated and won’t be delivered until winter 2024, Coffelt said.
Andrew Goodall, project manager for the LaGrange Lock for the Rock Island District, also gave an update on the LaGrange project, which calls for construction of a new 1,200-foot lock landward of the existing 600-foot lock. Initial contracts for site development and machinery fabrication will be ready for contract award in September 2024, pending construction funding, he said. The comprehensive cost estimate development is scheduled to begin in March 2024. Design is currently at about 5 percent, Goodall said.
Caption for top photo: Unique view of the filling/emptying culverts inside the lock wall at Marseilles Lock and Dam. (Photo by Paul Rohde, Waterways Council Inc.)