Illinois Fertilizer & Chemical Association
Supply · Service · Stewardship

Five Lock and Dam Closures on Illinois River Looming

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. In order to facilitate repairs, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, (USACE/Corps) Rock Island District developed a consolidated repair schedule that included a short closure to locks in 2019, followed by two extended closures in 2020 and 2023. The closures are scheduled to take place simultaneously to lessen the impact to commercial navigation as much as possible.
The current 9-foot channel lock and dam system on the Illinois River was built in the 1930s with an estimated life span of 50 years. "The structures have long outlived their life expectancy but continue to operate 24/7 due to the hard work and dedication of the men and women charged with maintaining the structures," USACE noted. "Nearly half of the District's employees are involved in some part of the maintenance or operation of the lock and dam and navigation system."
On their website, the Corps notes that all lock and dam facilities on the Illinois Waterway have a single lock chamber for passing vessels. "During the scheduled closures, no vessels will be able to pass through the affected locks. 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. This would allow vessels to pass around the dam without using the lock. There is no guarantee river levels will be high during the closures."
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