Impacts to locks on the Illinois River

Published July 26, 2013

The locks and dams on the Illinois River are a bit different than those on the Mississippi – with one big difference being the two that have Wicket dams  - Peoria and LaGrange. But there are others too.

The flooding in April forced a 200-mile stretch of the Illinois River to close as flood waters impacted the lock operations but those locks were impacted in various ways.

At Dresden the lock was closed due to heavy flows making it unsafe for lock personnel to open the gates to lock a boat. At Starved Rock the lock walls were under water with the water coming up so quickly that they didn’t have time to pull all the necessary machinery.

“They were only out of operation for a few days,” said Craig Hess, chief of locks and dams on the Illinois River. “They had everything cleaned and repaired and were back open very quickly.”

Both Peoria and LaGrange were in “open pass” meaning the wickets were not needed to maintain the navigation channel and were lowered into the river.

“They just put the wickets up,” said Hess. “Peoria’s went up July 15 and LaGrange’s July 18.”

In addition to the barge incident at Marseilles the record flood waters also caused lots of erosion around the power houses and essentially washed away a good chunk of land on the north side of the dam.

“We had a bridge that allowed us access to the Power House, but the severe erosion makes the bridge unusable,” said Hess. “We are now looking at the options on how to repair this area.”

The island at Marseilles also had significant washouts and erosion as well as the locks walls and areas around the lock chambers were the water flowed over. 

 “We had everyone engaged during the flood - helping one another out, pitching in wherever needed,” said Hess. “It was really a team effort to deal with not only the lock closures but also the incident at Marseilles.”