Flooding impacts locks at Starved Rock and Marseilles

The Starved Rock and Marseilles locks on the Illinois River are fully closed for maintenance, but now flooding is going to extend those closures.

The closures started Sept. 20 and were expected to last until Oct. 5, but Mother Nature had other plans.

“Work at both locks has stopped right now because of the flooding,” said Allen Marshall, spokesman with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Rock Island District. “The Oct. 5 date to reopen is not going to happen.”

The closures are because of contractors installing bulkhead recess at the top of the locks. The project is headed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and this work is a precursor to next summer’s bigger project of replacing miter gates at Starved Rock, among other maintenance projects that will close six locks along the Illinois River Waterway system.

Initially, the Corps projected this year’s two-week closure for August, but flooding earlier this year pushed back the full closure to early September. Now flooding has caused more delays.

“At this point, the project folks are looking at some alternatives,” Marshall said.

The Illinois River was about 2 feet above flood stage at the Starved Rock pool as of noon Monday, after waters crested Sunday afternoon.

Marshall said project leaders would be keeping an eye on the river, however, as more rain is expected throughout the week.

The locks had been experiencing partial closures during daytime hours since June 1. Extended closures will give the transportation industry a taste of things to come.

Next year, Starved Rock’s lock is expected to be closed from July through October.

The closures will likely force a lot of commodity transportation onto local roads and rails. One barge has the capacity of about 58 semitrailers, according to Iowa Department of Transportation.

And one 15-barge tow has the capacity of about 870 semitrailers or
200 jumbo hopper car trains.

J.F. Brennan Co., a Wisconsin-based company with an Ottawa office, has been contracted to perform the servicing at Starved Rock.