MARSEILLES, Ill. (May 3) – The Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Commanding General visited the Marseilles Dam, Thursday, to survey ongoing repair and salvage operations following damage sustained during an incident April 18.
The Honorable Jo-Ellen Darcy and Lt. Gen. Thomas P. Bostick met with Marseilles City officials as well as members of the Unified Command, which includes representatives from the U.S. Coast Guard, the barge industry and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Joining Secretary Darcy and Lt. Gen. Bostick was Maj. Gen. John Peabody, commanding general of the Mississippi Valley Division of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The secretary and the two generals toured Marseilles Dam to get a first-hand look at the operations being performed by the Unified Command. Lt. Gen. Bostick, who serves as the U.S. Army’s Chief of Engineers, said the work being done at Marseilles is of utmost importance.
“Out of all the flood fighting the Corps of Engineers is doing, getting this dam fixed is our top priority,” Lt. Gen. Bostick said.
The visit by the Corps’ top leadership comes in the aftermath of record flooding on the Illinois River, which resulted inseven barges breaking loose from a tow and coming to rest at Marseilles Dam, April 18.
Four of the seven barges were successfully removed from the area last week and three barges remain partially submerged. Salvage operations have ceased temporarily in order for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to complete their damage assessment. An A-frame crane has been moved into the area to assist with the lifting and removal of the barges when the salvage operations resume.
In addition to the damage assessment, the Corps has begun 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 navigational pool upstream of the Marseilles Lock and Dam.
As of Thursday, crews have placed more than 3,000 tons of rock, about ten percent of what is needed to complete the dam. The plan is to continue placing rock until the dike is completed, which is estimated to be May 20.
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). Flow projections and other contributing factors currently indicate the 9-foot navigational pool level between the Marseilles and Dresden Dams will be maintained through May 8.
The Coast Guard continues to enforce a 40-mile safety zone around the Marseilles Dam that extends from Dresden Lock to Starved Rock Lock. The safety zone will remain in place until an Army of Corps of Engineers’ survey can confirm that the Marseilles Dam has no significant scour present.
Until survey results can verify the condition of the dam, vessel traffic within the safety zone is limited to assets engaged in barge salvage or emergency dike construction efforts. However, the Coast Guard is drafting a contingency plan to resume vessel traffic through the Marseilles Lock with specific restrictions, including slower speeds, limited tow sizes, and stand-by helper boats in the area.
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, Chief Alan Haraf 216-389-0420
Ingram Barge Company, Elizabeth Fielding 615-335-0225