Editor's note: Coast Guard Sector Lake Michigan has begun issuing a broadcast notice to mariners, which can be read by clicking here, to alert them of a safety zone in effect on the Illinois River.
MARSEILLES, Ill. (May 1) — The Unified Command reported that operations continued at Marseilles Dam, Tuesday, where three partially submerged barges remain.
Last week, four of the seven barges were successfully removed from the area and lightering of the iron ore barge continued on Monday. Salvage operations temporarily ceased Tuesday in order for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to continue their damage assessment. The Corps mobilized a crew equipped with sonar instrumentation that enables an underwater analysis of potential damage to the dam.
With two dam gates inoperable due to damage, the Corps may not be able to maintain the 9-foot-deep commercial navigation channel (flat pool). Illinois River projections based on weather forecasts and other contributing factors currently indicate the 9-foot navigational pool level between the Marseilles and Dresden Dams will be maintained through May 9.
In addition to the damage assessment, the Corps began 24-hour operations to construct a temporary rock dike. This dike will help reduce river flows and facilitate repairs to the dam. The dike may also assist the Corps in maintaining the navigation pool above Marseilles Lock and Dam.
“Our crews have already placed more than 900 tons of rock and we plan to add as much as 3,000 tons per day for about 10 days to complete the dike,” said Mike Cox, operations division, Rock Island District. “Assessing damage to the dam and constructing the rock dike will be the primary focus for the Corps in the coming days.”
Public safety is the top priority for the Corps of Engineers, who advise citizens to exercise caution near the Marseilles Lock and Dam or avoid the area due to heavy construction equipment in operation.
The Coast Guard has expanded the safety zone around the Marseilles Dam to include 40 miles of the Illinois River between the Dresden Lock and the Starved Rock Lock. The safety zone will remain in place until the Army of Corps of Engineers surveys indicate that the Marseilles Dam has no significant scour present. Vessel traffic allowed within the zone is currently limited to assets engaged in salvage or emergency dike construction efforts. Vessels located within the Marseilles or Starved Rock Pools can request permission from the Coast Guard Captain of the Port to depart the safety zone by calling 630-336-0300. Vessels scheduled to assist with salvage or port recovery operations and desiring to enter the safety zone through the Starved Rock or Dresden Locks must obtain permission from the Army Corps of Engineers.
A web link has been set up by the Coast Guard to keep the public informed of ongoing operations and provide the latest Unified Command updates on vessel transit restrictions for the Illinois River between the Starved Rock and Dresden Dams. Information can be accessed at http://tinyurl.com/marseillesdamincident
Army Corps of Engineers, Allen Marshall 309-751-7495
US Coast Guard, CDR Jason Neubauer 630-986-2126
Ingram Barge Company, Elizabeth Fielding 615-321-3110
The Unified Command consists of representatives from the U.S. Coast Guard Sector Lake Michigan, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Rock Island District and Ingram Barge.